June 19, 2018

A colossal stage facing a sea of jumping, sweating and screaming crowd. A room with a whiteboard and crumbled papers all across the floor. A group of tattooed, slick youngsters taking the stage – fine tuning their instruments before bursting into thunderous guitar reefs and high pitch songs. A group of caffeine-fuelled, curious men wondering in circles inside the room – brainstorming ideas and shooting random taglines for the latest ad campaign. Yes, you guessed it right. The first group is probably one of those highly revered musicians at a concert. While the latter are folks in an advertising agency. The first one can be related to the term “band”. While the latter can be better associated with the term “brand”. So can these two polar opposites, like night and day, be bound by the same thread?


The first and foremost similarity is that both of these group of people are in the ‘idea-business’. Creativity is their bread and butter. One cannot simply go to the studio like clockwork and write songs every 4 hours. Neither can one walk into an office, take a look at the creative brief and come up with sure-shot advertising campaigns. In both of these creative industries, brewing ideas take time and often requires one to constantly be on the thinking loop. While musicians constantly look around in search of finding the perfect tune or that one scene from an average incident to spark the perfect lyrics, admen are in the search as well – stressing their grey matter to think about the perfect tagline for the next client.


Songs can fuel a protest. Advertisements can fuel conversations. Childish Gambino’s “This is America” can be a perfect example. The ridiculously catchy song, backed up with Gambino’s queer dance movements portray gun violence, racial discrimination and dozens of other things that are currently wrong with America. It is set to be one of the most viewed music videos on YouTube and has already sparked dozens of conversations across all news and radio stations as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Remember the latest Pepsi ad featuring Kylie Jenner? An advertisement featuring racial discrimination and other political elements and within a few hours, conversations spread all across social media like wildfire. Be it good or bad, but these forms of communication can make people stop dead in their tracks and think, look around and ask questions, or even rejuvenate in sheer joy and excitement.


With globalization ‘taking over the globe’, bands and advertising agencies are not only limited to their home countries. Ideas as well as songs are universal. So are the ones meticulously crafting them. That is the reason why agencies like Young & Rubicam, Saatchi and Saatchi, Grey has transcended boundaries and have established their presence in numerous countries all across the globe; working with both local and global brands simultaneously. Likewise, a young lady from Delhi hums Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” on her way to college or a British lad dances to the latest Bhaangra beat.


Considering both these to be mediums by which humans express their latent emotions; an innate need to improve or constantly experiment with the craft is a must-do. Think about Linkin Park, one of those eclectic bands that has discovered almost every corner of the town – going from alternative/hard rock to using synthesizers and electronic music in their recent songs. Or even Drake – creating the perfect balance between being a rapper and a singer, incorporating dark, heavy beats to his songs to using upbeat, Reggae-infused tunes as well. Advertising goes by the same norm as well. Art directors think about new ways to portray their concepts. Copywriters play around with words and shift from long-form body copies to short-form and vice versa. In both the industries, sky is never the limit. There’s always room for improvement. There are always ways to craft the story in a better way.


Admen and Musicians are a group of people who are constantly seeking perfection in their craft and never throwing the towel until the stone turns into a diamond. The best part is that their dedication and diligence does not get unnoticed. Both their work gets applauded by the masses and both the songs and advertisements get the opportunity to clinch prestigious awards in revered, extravagant ceremonies. There is Grammy Awards, BRIT Awards and countless others in the music industry, while admen get to celebrate their work by being nominated in the Cannes Lions, the CLIO Awards, the ADDYs and Commward in Bangladesh. Nothing less than the Academy Awards or the Olympics, these awards have their own significance to the admen and musicians respectively. Moreover, there are Hall of Fames for both of the groups; thus giving them wonderful opportunities to produce incredible pieces and immortalize their contributions to each of their individual industries.


With massive demographic changes in both the consumers as well the listeners, people in both the music industry as well as in the advertising industry have a pressing need to better cater to the shifts in their ‘audience’. Things have started to change as well. Rap as a genre has evolved to brand out to Trap music and Mumble Rap. Lengthy, descriptive advertisements have transformed into brief, attention-grabbing and even queer pieces.

David Ogilvy once said, “If it doesn’t sell it isn’t creative.” Surely, he belongs to the school of advertisers who believe that advertisement is mostly, if not primarily, is about selling. On the contrary, Seth Godin quoted a few years back that “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell.” I personally think Godin’s remark is a more clear portrayal of the recent days. In this era of content marketing, SEO and Instagram influencers advertisement has evolved from a mere promotional medium to become a medium of storytelling – a ‘tool’ by which everyday stories are carefully picked, curated with utmost precision keeping in tandem with the brand being advertised and finally shared to the world to generate sales, conversations and reviews. Musicians are following the same track. Making music is not just about hitting the billboard top chart or going multi-platinum. It has become a way of life, a medium by which we share what is going on around us, who we are and who we aspire to be. That is the very reason why a suit-cloaked South Korean rapper making fun of a commercial district in South Korea while pretending to be on horseback simultaneously (Yes, I am referring to Gangnam Style) has resonated across the voices of millions of people all around the globe, despite having zero idea what the song means! Or George Harrison picking up his guitar for the sake of humanity and writing his evergreen Bangladesh during our Liberation War. No matter what the critics say, both music and advertisement are art forms – as they rely on reflecting what the world is up to every now and then. The canvases and brushes might be different, but both musicians and admen are artists, painting the various shades of the world in their distinctive ways.

 By Farhat Chowdhury

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