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Why Great Music Steals the Show at the Super Bowl



Wunderman Thompson North America’s executive director of music and audio, Paul Greco speaks to LBB about the power of music at the Big Game

Why Great Music Steals the Show at the Super Bowl

Paul Greco is the executive director of music and audio at Wunderman Thompson North America. A board member of The Association of Music Producers, Paul’s musical direction has made a major impact on many major brands throughout his career. He has been nominated for a special EMMY Award and has won two AICP Awards for Excellence in Musical Arrangement, as well as multiple Cannes Lions, Clios, London International Awards, AMP Awards, and Effie Awards.

During his career, Paul has worked as a recording engineer and then a music producer for a variety of advertising agencies, including Y&R and BBDO New York – producing music for brands such as Pepsi, FedEx, GE, Visa, HBO and more. After more than a decade at Wunderman Thompson, he has made it his goal to explore new and innovative ways to use sound and music in branding for all media channels. His philosophy is to create deep and durable ties between consumers and brands through music and sound – which he believes remain some the most effective ways to make the connection.

And what bigger stage is there to make audio brand connections on than the Super Bowl? It’s perhaps the only event of the year when the audience isn’t fast-forwarding through the ads - or scrolling through Twitter and TikTok instead, with the TV on mute. To discuss the importance of music and sound’s contribution to the best Super Bowl ads, LBB spoke to Paul about the relationship between the Big Game and big tunes, and what we can expect to hear at this year’s game of games.

LBB> We all know babies, animals and celebrities are Super Bowl ad essentials. What’s the role of music? 

Paul> The Super Bowl is the ‘big dance’ for advertisers, it’s one of the few times consumers don’t skip through commercials. The right choice in music can help make Super Bowl ads likeable and memorable, through a nostalgic song, current popular music, or even a dramatic score. We reviewed the winners of the coveted USA Today Ad Meter from 1989-2022. 85% of Ad Meter winners used music in their ads – it proves that great music steals the show.  

LBB> How soon do brands and agencies need to secure rights to THE song?

Paul> Brands and agencies start to concept Super Bowl creative many months beforehand. Dozens of ideas are presented and tested alongside music to see if the overall concept resonates and if the music choice enhances the idea. If there is a popular song involved, it could take many weeks to secure all the rights, which may also be needed for the ads outside of the airing of the game. And, most often, the Super Bowl ad is the ‘launch’ for work that airs throughout the year – work that can be recognised over and over thanks to the right score or song choice. All of this work is worth it when that perfectly placed song catches people’s attention between breaks in the game, when the creation of a dramatic or catchy score goes hand in hand with highly produced visuals to make an idea come to life.

LBB> How do brands differentiate themselves using music? Are they better off using hit titles or original songs?

Paul> Using a popular song or a song from a famous artist can have an immediate recognisability factor – and brands want brand recognition. Over the years, songs from artists like Led Zeppelin, Foreigner, Nina Simone, John Legend, Justin Bieber, and NSYNC (to name just a few), have appeared in Super Bowl ads and made for some of the most remembered ads over time.

There has also been a history of classic jingles that are part of iconic Super Bowl ads. Budweiser, Coke, and McDonald’s have a history of showcasing their jingles during the Big Game. Pepsi is famous for using celebrities like Britney Spears and Ray Charles to sing an original jingle or having celebrities like Lionel Richie, Madonna, and Michael Jackson rework their songs with ‘brand lyrics’. This is a great way to capitalise on the fame and notoriety of famous musical artists, and to also gain the equity of them singing a song about the brand. A huge win-win for the brand, it’s something no other brand can ever use, keeping the association only with that brand.

LBB> Sounds great for brands, but do the artists benefit from their music being featured at the Super Bowl?

Paul> Not surprisingly, Beyoncé is the star example of this when she broke all the rules in 2016. Until 2016, Super Bowl halftime performers were a separate experience from the commercial breaks. Beyoncé capitalised on her halftime show with a stunning in-game commercial to announce her new global tour. This ad made Beyoncé the first musical artist to use a Super Bowl ad to promote her own brand, rather than a consumer product - and helped turn the ‘Formation World Tour’ into one of the top 20 highest-grossing musical tours of all time.

LBB> What kind of music can we expect to hear at Super Bowl LVII?

Paul> Trending TikTok singles are having their moment. I think we could expect to hear lots of songs easily recognisable from your TikTok scrolling as brands may be looking to viral songs to be culturally savvy and capture gen z audiences (and even their parents). The question is: will we be singing a new jingle, humming a TikTok hit or streaming a song that brings us back to high school on Monday after the Super Bowl? And will we remember the brand attached to the song?  

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Wunderman Thompson USA, Tue, 07 Feb 2023 14:13:00 GMT