101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior


Worldwide Chief Creative Officer at J. Walter Thompson


“You‘re doing yourself a disservice when you don‘t use music to build your brand.”



Matt Eastwood, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer, J. Walter Thompson

Eastwood joined JWT as Worldwide CCO in 2014. Described by Britain’s Campaign magazine as a “unicorn” in the communications industry, he has overseen some of the most innovative and recognizable creative projects in advertising today. His career has spanned numerous agencies, specialties and countries, including Australia, the UK and US. Eastwood was a founding partner of M&C Saatchi in Australia before he went on to join DDB Australia in 2006 as National Creative Director and Vice Chairman. In 2010, he became CCO of DDB New York, which, in the 2013 Gunn Report, was named the 13th most awarded agency in the world. At the same time, AdAge‘s 2013 Award‘s Report listed him as the 5th most awarded CCO worldwide. He is a highly awarded creative with an international sensibility, living life as a New Yorker.

Reese: How important is music in building a brand?

I think it’s hugely important, and you’re doing yourself a disservice when you don’t use music to help build your brand. It’s a big decision. I look at brands like Apple or Nike, Beats, Levi’s… those brands have taken music branding really seriously. They have
built their brand through music.

Reese: Why is it then that music doesn’t seem to get the treatment it deserves in branding and advertising? It’s what most of your colleagues agree on.

It’s funny… For some reason, it hasn’t been at the center of the decisions we make in terms of other aspects of branding. I have worked on McDonald’s for many years. We probably spent more time
talking about the food and how that contributed to the overall branding than we talked about the music. The reason for it must be the way in which agencies are structured. Music is part of what we do, and solid branding is part of what we do, but it’s always set outside of
the creative department

“The most successful audio branding strategies aim at consistency while at the same time allowing room for inventiveness and surprise.”

Reese: There’s a famous Millward Brown study on how purchase intent is linked to audio-visual branding, and it shows that audio is a substantial driver for consumer buying decisions. Yet our marketing resources are minimal for audio. I have also found that there’s a direct correlation between a brand’s discipline around audio and its market value. Brands like McDonald’s have clear audio standards and are very consistent in their use of audio. Brands that have a smaller market value tend to be arbitrary in their audio communication. Why is that still the case? Is it maybe just due to a lack of knowledge?

Eastwood: Yes, I think it’s mostly based on a lack of knowledge. I love that you have started an open conversation about the relevance and importance of music within branding. It’s not something that is talked about often enough. It’s partly because people aren’t educated
to the value of it. It’s not something that is taught at schools or business schools. The best thing we can do is put relevant case studies out there. A lot of companies that have used music to build their brand as a very deliberate choice. When Levi’s were doing all the work with BBH back in the day, their music strategy was a really important part of that brand in its relevance to the audience. Every time they put a song in one of their ads, it would climb the charts and have a resurgence.

Reese: We cannot test the isolated return on investment for music yet, in terms of big data. But we’re getting closer and closer to being able to put dollars to the ROI on music. Once we get there, it will also be easier to make people aware of the value of music.

Exactly. What can be measured matters. If there’s no way to successfully measure something, it’s quite hard to quantify it and say, “We should spend this amount of money on it.” At JWT, we have been specifically trying to build a measurement tool called “culture muscle.” It is about giving brands a score of how they’re influencing and moving culture and how they are involved in culture. It’s a way of assessing the cultural relevance of a brand, and giving a score to how that contributes to the brand’s overall value. Music is a part of that.

Reese: If you had the right measurement tools, would you test music on campaigns?

I think that would be really interesting. I have tested music approaches in the past, but in a more quantitative way. It’s by no means qualitative where I could tell you exactly the difference it is making. So if somebody was able to do that, then of course, yes.

Reese: At what point in the timeline of a campaign does music enter the picture?

It’s different every time. When I was running the Reebok business, we made music decisions strategically. We never formalized it, but we talked about assigning a chief music officer to the brand, who curated the musical output of that brand in everything from the tracks that we used on the commercials to what we did in-store… and that was really early on. But when you’re writing a piece of film for a brand that you have had for fifteen years, the music choice and decisions are often not made until you’ve shot the spot or you have copy to put a track on it. So it also depends on the ambition
of the brand.

Reese: There are a lot of brands out there now who say, “We need to have a voice.” But how do you put a brand’s philosophy and history of a hundred years into a short audio logo? What would your advice be to a CMO of a brand who is in that situation?

Eastwood: This is one of these incredibly challenging decisions. Music is such an emotional choice. People tend to be drawn to what they like, and to me, that’s what you want to avoid. It’s important to have discussions around the brand to help a CMO understand that it’s actually not about personal choice, but it’s about whom you’re talking to and what’s relevant to them. You should have a discussion and put some guidelines around it. Also, you should listen to the experts.

Reese: So would you suggest to them to involve an audio agency?

Eastwood: Yes. We did that recently with Shell. We wanted an audio branding signature for the brand, but it had to work globally, so we collaborated with audio branding specialists. The briefings were really interesting. It had to appear in multiple countries, everywhere from China to the UK, Europe, the Americas. There were big discussions about what tone we were looking for, what feeling we wanted to give people when they heard it. That’s the sort of thing we could have never done on our own. Bringing in experts is crucial.

Reese: How long did the process take?

Eastwood: It took about six months. Some of the obstacles were the multiple countries and the multiple brand divisions under the Shell umbrella. What we also learned is that you have to make sure that your sonic branding strategy doesn’t scare off the people you’re working with. The most successful audio branding strategies aim at consistency while at the same time allowing room for inventiveness and surprise.

Reese: So you don’t want to handcuff the creatives at the agency, but you do want a consistency with the consumer?

Eastwood: Exactly. If you can do that, then that’s a joy. If you can’t, then it’s a burden. That’s the big challenge.

Reese: Can you talk about other challenges within that process?

Eastwood: One of the main challenges was each person’s individual taste within the guiding group. It’s very hard to have people react logically to music. They just tend to react emotionally. But I think because we had many conversations about it, everyone got to the right
place. It was well thought out, it wasn’t just based on likability. It was much more strategic than that.

Reese: That leads me to a question that I ask most of my interviewees in this series: How do you pick a great idea out of a hundred mediocre ones?

Eastwood: I wish there was a rule, but there isn’t. You can still tell, though. There’s a tingle that comes from the idea when you know you’ve got it. And that’s when you really have to fight for it.

Reese: In the last twenty years, how has music changed in communications? Obviously, technology has changed dramatically.

Eastwood: For me, the difference now is that people have a much closer relationship to the music on a brand. I love technology like Shazam that allows you to identify music on an ad. Twenty years ago, when you heard a piece of music on a TV commercial, you’d never know what it was, but now you can find out instantly. You can connect to that artist and explore them further. While ten, twenty years ago it was the ultimate sin for an artist to sell his music to advertising, now a lot of musicians recognize the marketing strength of getting their music involved with brands. So I feel like there’s a bigger willingness from the musicians’ point of view to get involved, and a bigger engagement from consumers in terms of the music on-brand.

Reese: I think there was also a huge democratization of the industry. Does that help the process? Or is it rather making it more difficult?

Eastwood: The choice can make it more paralyzing. You’ve got access to every song in the world on your computer now. There’s almost too much choice.

Reese: Where will audio be in 20 years?

Eastwood: I have no idea. I think there’s just much more content out there now available to people. There are more avenues for music to be distributed to people. I’m incredibly intrigued by new music ideas. I don’t know if you have ever used Songza – it’s almost like Spotify, but rather than choosing music that you like, you choose music according to the mood that you’re in. I really like that kind of curation. To me, that’s how I find music that I didn’t know. I can see a time when that starts to be applied by advertising.

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