101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
Chief Creative Officer at Kolle Rebbe
“We would be able to make use of sound-alikes, but I`m starting to sweat by even thinking about them because they are always so far below the original.”
Fabian Frese, Chief Creative Officer, Kolle Rebbe
Fabian Frese is CCO at Kolle Rebbe since 2014. The trained lawyer began his career as a copywriter at BBDO in Düsseldorf before moving to Jung von Matt/Alster in Hamburg, where he was finally responsible for the creation as managing director. Frese is one of the most award-winning creative minds in Germany and a member of the ADC and D&AD. His passion for music started with his first drum kit at the age of 11 and took him on a journey through dozens of highly unsuccessful bands.
Reese: Can you talk about your role at Kolle Rebbe?
Frese: I`m the CCO at Kolle Rebbe, the creative lead of the agency. Together with Stephan, my creative partner. I joined the agency about four and a half years ago. I´m mainly working on the global Lufthansa account, but also for Krombacher, Netflix, DAZN, HypoVereinsbank, and others. Luckily, I`m still a creative and not mainly a manager.
“You have the pictures in your head, but you don`t really think about the music. You imagine how it could look like, but not how it would sound like. Sometimes, I have to force myself to look away from the visuals and think about music.”
Reese: What`s your relation to music? What impact does it have on your life?
Frese: Music had a very strong impact on my life, especially in the age of ten to 25. I always listened to music as I got my first mixtape from a neighbor when I was about that age. I also started to play the drums and had my first band when I was thirteen, covering the Beetles` songs. I never dreamed of being a Rockstar, but I loved being on stage. My first real band was a Punk band, but then I fell in love with old Soul and Funk music and played in bands coming from that direction. Music had a huge impact on me during my whole life so far.
Reese: How important is music for you in branding?
Frese: It`s really important. The shame is that in my career, I rarely had the chance to build a whole sound experience for a brand. Usually, you have this case that the client says that they want a new audio logo, what is a painful process to go through. We can of course talk about an audio logo, but you don`t need just one audio logo, you need the Sound DNA for the brand. That`s when most of the clients step out again because they know it`s a long process that costs a lot of money if you want to do it right. That`s why it happens very rarely. I mostly get in touch with music when it comes to film.
Reese: In the first Edition of the Book, most Creatives agreed that in terms of value, it is 50 to 50 ratio in audio-visual communication.
Frese: To be honest, I would say it`s maybe less for music. But I think that the numbers definitely depend on the idea the film is based on.
Reese: The question is, why we are not treating music the way it should be treated?
Frese: I don`t want to know, how many chances I`ve missed by not thinking seriously enough about the music I should use. Very often, even as an experienced Creative, you think about the film and the visuals only. You have the pictures in your head, but you don`t really think about the music. You imagine how it could look like, but not how it would sound like. Sometimes, I have to force myself to look away from the visuals and think about music. If music is not the essential part of the film, it`s hard to think about it from the beginning. Most of the time, we are developing the film and then start thinking about the music. Very often, the music is not as supportive as it could be.
Reese: That sounds like last minute behavior, the icing on the cake.
Reese: They also say that music is one of the toughest things to sell to a client. Would you agree?
Frese: Dealing with music is very hard in many ways. One thing for example, is the cost for very good music. We would be able to make use of sound-alikes, but I`m starting to sweat by even thinking about them because they are always so far below the original.
Reese: And that`s sometimes also a legal issue.
Frese: That`s true. It`s tough to convince people to spend a lot on music, even if they make the film way more brilliant than any other music. There`s one exception we just had for an Audi commercial, where we put Grandmaster Flash onto the film. They loved it so much as it made the film perfect. It`s still tough to convince clients to spend a lot of money on music and also to discuss about it because it`s so subjective. There are so many different impressions when you are listening to a piece of music. It`s also really hard because you can`t quite say what you don`t like about it. That`s much easier with pictures.
Reese: Everything that has to do with brand visuals is written in stone, but there`s no clear strategy for sound.
Frese: As a Creative, I basically don`t like working under rules. Of course, it also depends on the kind of guidelines. Music is the element that should make a film perfect. You have to look at it and think that it`s a great piece of work. I prefer the freedom to choose what music fits best to every single film I make. We always strive for freedom and that`s what I`m struggling with. I don`t want to have any guidelines. I just want to pick what feels best. On the other hand, I understand that it`s important for a brand to be recognized as easy as possible. It`s like there are two hearts beating in my chest (laughs). When we are working with Lufthansa, we have guidelines I can easily deal with. When we look for music, we always look at the brand DNA. There are always two things that we keep in mind: Lufthansa is cultivated and warm-hearted. The music has to mirror and support the message of the brand. I once flew with an airline that had this really cheap-sounding music before take-off and landing. I had the most direct connection to this brand as I was sitting in one of their planes. I didn`t really know if I could trust this brand, as the whole experience got destroyed by the music. As a customer, I don`t want surprises. And at that exact moment, I realized what an impact music really has.
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