101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior


Tony Granger

Global Chief Creative Officer, Young & Rubicam


“Music can be extremely powerful. It connects to the heart. Music in advertising and in film influences you and informs you emotionally.”


Global Chief Creative Officer, Young & Rubicam


Granger began his career in his native South Africa, where he led TBWA/Hunt Lascaris. Before joining Y&R in 2008, Granger spent five years at Saatchi & Saatchi, where he took Saatchi New York to the number one agency at Cannes. He led a similar renaissance at Bozell New York, where he took the agency to number three in the world. As Global CCO at Y&R, Granger is the architect of the company’s global creative community and has attracted some of the industry’s best creative talent. Creating a collaborative creative culture has resulted in great work and results for clients such as Land Rover, Dell, Wendy’s, Gatorade and Vodafone. Under the leadership of Granger, Y&R has won many awards, and he’s been fortunate to serve as president of several international juries.

Reese: Tony, thanks for being a part of this. Let‘s dive right in: How important is music in building a brand in your opinion?

Granger: Very important, in the way that a score for a film is very important. It guides the emotional experience. Helps make the work memorable. It is something that can make an exponential difference.

Reese: How about yourself? How important is music for you personally and for your work? Do you play music yourself?

Granger: My first ambition was to be a musician. While the jocks were off playing futbol, I was playing in a band. I learned to play guitar before I could write. My mother was a musician, a really talented pianist, and she taught me how to play. So as early as I can remember, music was a huge part of my life. In a big way, growing up with music taught me a lot about the creative business. The dynamics of creating music in a group and learning how to be a team player is very similar to making great creative, and the process that goes into making ideas better.

“Music is often times an afterthought. That to me is a big mistake. Music should be just as important in developing the strategy as the visual.”

Reese: That‘s true. Some of my interviewees have actually told me that they prefer to hire musicians for creative positions in their agencies. So considering the effect music can have on people, do you think the right choice of music can change consumer behavior?

Granger: Absolutely. Music can be extremely powerful. It connects to the heart. It connects to the soul. It entertains. Music in advertising and in film influences you and informs you emotionally. In a black and white film, the music being played behind a scene of a guy
creeping up a staircase can make you feel sinister or fearful whereas the tracks in a Charlie Chaplin-esque film are airy and fun.

Reese: A lot of brands disappear once consumers close their eyes or turn away from the screen. Do you believe a brand should be recognizable by sound only?

Granger: That’s an odd question. It’s true that some music, usually jingles, may quickly identify a brand. But the branding itself involves so much more — and that’s a good thing. You want the music to feel integrated and inevitable, but it is part of a complete experience that starts with the product or service itself and is expressed in the way the brand looks and feels.

Reese: Compared to a brand‘s visual and verbal communication, do you think audio should be treated with the same discipline? A lot of brands sound arbitrary in their audio communication. Should brands follow an audio style guide – just as they have a visual
style guide?

Granger: So much thought and eff ort goes into the editing, directing and casting of a film. Music is often times an afterthought. That to me is a big mistake. Music should be just as important in developing the strategy as the visual.

Reese: Looking back at your life and career so far, what was most memorable experience with music? Can you share that with us?

Granger: Music is the soundtrack to people’s lives. When I hear a Black Sabbath or a Zeppelin track I can remember where I was and who I was with. When I listen to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ album, it takes me back to the night I finished school – and I don’t have the best memory. Music has such a strong emotional quality.

Reese: Brand managers seem to be hesitant to commit to audio in their branding strategies. Is audio brand design part of your conversation when talking to a client about brand communication?

Granger: It really depends on the target and how they want the film to be perceived… super cool, poignant, sad, retrospective… The classic jingle can still be really powerful. There was a long period of time where it was uncool to do that, but when you can connect a brand with a brand signature it’s very powerful indeed.

Reese: Where do you see the greatest challenge in finding a brand’s voice?

Granger: It’s also where the greatest opportunity lies — in defining strategy. If we really get the brand’s consumers — and it’s important not only to look at data but also to live with the consumers and understand how they interact with a brand — then its creative expression is grounded in something powerful. That guides the whole process from what kind of work we do to what kinds of emotions we are trying to invoke. All of which has bearing on music.

Reese: I‘m always interested in what drives the creative process at advertising agencies. What does your current decision-making process involving music look like?

Granger: As I’ve said, what we do is very collaborative and so it’s important to think about music from the beginning. In any collaborative eff ort, the inspiration can come from many places and the rest will follow. Believe me, it is completely apparent when you have the wrong music and the right music.

Reese: How do you communicate music when briefing a composer, a music company, a music supervisor or publisher? A lot of creatives seem to struggle with talking about music.

Granger: Don’t think there is a single answer to that. But at some level, for every piece of work we do, getting the emotion right is the key driver.

Reese: How do you pick music? Considering that music is often so intuitive and subjective – what’s your evaluation process? Do you test audio assets used in your brand communication?

Granger: Deciding on the music is always very difficult. You can give the music so much thought and in theory the track can work, but when you put the song to picture it often doesn’t work the way you thought it would. I always recut according to the music. The music is really what connects the audio with the picture.

Reese: What about the value of music – how do you determine how much you are willing to pay for music, licensed or scored?

Granger: Well, it depends on how powerful the piece is and how much of an audience it comes with. It’s more likely that an advertiser is willing to pay big money for a song from an artist who has a massive following. We’re essentially buying into the artist’s fan base. Their followers dictate the cost combined with what the song does to the audience from an emotional point of view.

Reese: Is there a certain brand that you admire in their use of audio in their brand communication?

Granger: Hard to single one out. So many brands are using fantastic music at the moment. But artists that become synonymous with the brand they’re trying to create will be more valued than an unknown. The popular artists come with a huge fan base and that will
help a brand’s likeability. You’re not only buying the music, but also what the artist’s brand stands for. For example, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry all have very distinct brands, which create different brand connections for the consumer.

Reese: Do you see a shift in how important music is becoming in your brand communication?

Granger: When I was growing up in the business, musicians didn’t want to have anything to do with advertisers and were very selective, even in features. That’s all changed now. Brands can give musicians massive exposure, and these days, artists are very willing to collaborate on any level. There is a quid pro quo relationship that advertisers and musicians began to realize. The advertisers not only get access to a famous track, but also an artist’s fan base, and the artist gets taken to places they never thought they would go… like cinema and the Super Bowl.

Reese: Last question, and it‘s not necessarily music- related: How does a big idea feel? Do you recognize it immediately when it arrives?

Granger: You absolutely recognize it immediately. A big idea makes you want to do cartwheels, and when it’s discovered it’s often unanimously loved.

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