101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
Chairman Emeritus at DDB Worldwide
"It’s notable that people now prefer to borrow music. I prefer the idea of creating an original song or jingle that’s born out of the brand."
Keith Reinhard, Chairman Emeritus, DDB Worldwide.
In 1986, Reinhard was one of the architects of the advertising industry’s first and only three-way merger, creating Omnicom, which today ranks as one of the world’s largest advertising and marketing services holding company. Concurrent with the creation of Omnicom, Reinhard accomplished the merger of Doyle Dane Bernbach and Needham Harper Worldwide to create the present network, DDB Worldwide. He served the agency as Chairman and CEO until 2002 and then as Chairman until 2007. Advertising Age has referred to Keith Reinhard as the advertising industry’s “soft-spoken visionary.” Many of the media and compensation concepts first enunciated by Reinhard are now common practice in the industry. He was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 2007.
Reese: How important is music in building a brand?
Reinhard: Well to me – and I’m very partial to music in building brands – it can do so quickly what words take much longer to achieve. Music can establish your brand and set it apart from all others. During the Marlboro days, when you heard the (Magnifi cent Seven) theme, you instantly pictured the cowboy and the cigarette pack, even if you hadn’t yet seen a single image… Now, with shorter commercials, we sometimes use just a few notes to identify a brand – McDonald’s, for example, uses the same five notes all around the world.
Reese: What’s very clear from research is that we remember songs far more easily than moving pictures. Yet most of the time music is very spot-driven. The logo and the claim are well established, but the music is all over the place. And the most direct route to your subconscious is through your ears.
Reinhard: Absolutely. If a brand stays with an identifiable theme, it can bring continuity across radio, television online… myriad touch-points. It’s notable that people now prefer to borrow music. They tend to come up with a strategy and then look for an appropriate song. Which I don’t like as much as the idea of creating an original song or jingle that’s born out of the brand. One of the biggest successes I’ve been involved in was “You deserve a break today”, for McDonald’s. We used that piece of music in every imaginable way – country, jazz, samba – but the integrity of the melody and the mnemonic was always there. It identified the brand, it identified the promise, and it connected disparate messages in a cohesive way.
Reese: What was the process of getting to that? Did you work with different composers? Or was it one of those happy accidents?
Reinhard: It’s true that a lot of these things you can’t plan – and you have to be open to surprise. But we had a strategy, or an insight, which was that in 1971 in the United States, going out to eat was not something you did every night. And it was not just about the food – it was about the experience. Even (McDonald’s founder) Ray Croc admitted you could probably make a better burger at home. But you couldn’t get the same experience: this clean, fun, friendly place that kids loved. We knew we had to capture that feeling. The first idea we came up with was kind of corny, but it was musical. It was envisioning each McDonald’s store as an island you could get away to. So the first jingle went something like (sings): “Come to the McDonald’s islands…” But two days into shooting the McDonald’s legal people told us we couldn’t do that because a Midwestern chain of root beer stands described themselves as “islands of pleasure”. So we were left with the line: “Get up and get away to McDonald’s.” In other words, get away from your household routine. I called two music guys: the guy who wrote “Pepsi Generation” and the guy who wrote “Pan-Am Makes the Going Great.”
Reese: Two different composers?
Reinhard: Right. I called them because those two campaigns had some of the feeling of “getting away” that I wanted. It happened that Joe Brooks, who wrote Pepsi Generation, was too expensive. But then I spoke to Sid Woloshin who did Pan-Am. He said: “Do you have a line?” I said, “Not really: but we have this idea of getting away.” He said: “OK, do you have any lyrics?” I said: “By tomorrow morning, we’ll have some lyrics.” In fact the first ad we wrote turned out to be one of the most famous of the McDonald’s commercials. It concerned their obsession with cleanliness. It went: “Grab a bucket and mop, scrub the bottom and top, there is nothing so clean as my burger machine. With a broom and a brush, clean it up for the rush…” My partner and I were batting lines like this at each other. We ended with: “We’re so near, yet far away, so get up and get away – to McDonald’s.” The idea was that McDonald’s was close by, geographically, but far from your routine. I think Sid must have called in more than a dozen tune writers – and the one that came back was a sort of show tune. (Hums the tune). We took it to McDonald’s and they loved it. But then they said: “We don’t understand the ending: we’re so near and far away.” So we were left with eight notes that still needed words.
Reese: They just bought the tune?
Reinhard: Right, but we still needed the final lyric. So we went back to the research and listened to what the consumers were saying, and we noticed they used the word “break” a lot…Finally I called Sid and I said, “I think we got it!” And he said: “Sing it to me.” So I sang:
“You deserve a break today…” And Sid says: “That’s not a sing-able line.” And I said: “Sid, just sing it, or find someone to sing it, cause I think we got a sale here.” And in the end we did hundreds of arrangements.
Reese: You sang this over the phone? It’s funny – these days you’d send an MP3. No-one would pick up the phone any more.
Reinhard: Well, this was 1971. Anyway, that turned out to be a very durable tune. It worked as an instrumental; you could create all kinds of moods with it. But as commercials got shorter, and we were doing more and more 30s, the ending got cumbersome, so we lopped
off “so get up and get away” and were left with “You deserve a break today.”
Reese: Did that tune change consumer behavior? Was there any feedback in sales that could be tracked to the music?
Reinhard: Well, that campaign, which was powered by music, redefined the whole eating out experience. And it definitely fuelled McDonald’s growth. One journalist at the time wrote that the campaign made it seem “almost unpatriotic” not to take your kids to McDonald’s. You have to understand that drive-ins at the time, with gum-chewing car hops and loud rock music, were not necessarily places you wanted to take your kids.
Reese: What was the price tag? How much did the song cost?
Reinhard: You know, I honestly can’t remember. Words and pictures I’m OK with, but numbers… Plus we did a different arrangement each time.
Reese: And this was recorded live?
Reinhard: Live, in a studio, usually in New York. It was amazing: sometimes we’d have like 16 musicians in the room. Which was great, because we’d be sitting there in the booth saying: “Let’s add a little more violin here – we need a tugger”; something that tugs on your heartstrings. Or: “We need a rouser.”
Reese: A lot of creatives are quite frustrated about how to communicate ideas to composers. This is the first time I’ve spoken to anyone who could just pick up the phone and sing. Did it help in your career that you’re musical?
Reinhard: I grew up in a small, conservative Christian Mennonite community where wanting to be an artist was not viewed favorably – artists were people who starved in garrets. But music was important. We sang in church, we had a music director at school… music was all around us. I was actually more attracted to art than music. But my grandfather, who raised me, said I had to learn to play an instrument. I could choose any one I wanted. I knew he wanted me to pick something I could play in church. But drums weren’t allowed in
church – so I got drums and became a drummer!
Reese: Let’s talk about the decision-making process around music. How do you decide when something is strong enough to go on air? Is it a gut feeling? Or do you approach it in a more rational way?
Reinhard: That’s an interesting question. I grew up with music, so I have a pretty good ear. But I think it is a kind of gut instinct: “That music is saying what we want to say. It’s evoking the right emotions – I feel it and I know that others will feel it too.”
Reese: And how do you convince the client? Do they just trust you?
Reinhard: First you have to earn their trust. But I can’t remember making too many musical mistakes. Every McDonald’s commercial had a different track – and some were better than others. We would always write the lyric first, and let the lyric cue the kind of arrangement we needed. Or occasionally the story required an
Reese: If you listen to a block of commercials today, is there something you feel is missing?
Reinhard: There are almost no 60 or 90 second commercials on television, so you have less time to work with in terms of a musical expression. Also, because of the cost of original, live music, there are fewer studio musicians, which I think is a shame. Their art cannot be reproduced by a synthesizer. And of course it’s easier now for a creative director to find an existing song that fits his strategy. But to me it’s like borrowing somebody’s words or pictures. Ideally it should be an original creation.
Reese: Last question. You’ve been involved in some unbelievably successful campaigns. Were you aware of how influential they were going to be at the start? Is there something that happens where you say: “My God, this is going to be big.”
Reinhard: I think you know when you’ve nailed it. And I think that the longer you’ve been in the business, and the more experience you have, the surer you are of that instinct. Whether it’s a piece of music – or just a line. When I saw the “Wassup!” campaign for Budweiser – which I wasn’t involved in creating – I knew it could catch on. There was something… (clicks his fingers). In baseball terms, it’s the crack of the bat. In a baseball stadium, you hear the crack of the bat against the ball, and you know it’s out. That’s how it feels. Sometimes the client doesn’t agree. But that doesn’t change my mind – because I know it still could have been big.
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