Writing for a childlike ad spot – Week 3 Challenge – Feedback from Heather Gardner

Image used with Creative Commons license by Lisa M Photography.
Image used with Creative Commons license by Lisa M Photography.

by Heather Gardner

Thank you all for your fantastic songs that you wrote for our “Writing for Advertising” Childlike challenge! The songs submitted captured a wide range of styles and emotions and show how subjective the act of trying to describe a song through words and a brief can be. The eight finalists all wrote great songs, and all have potential in the world of advertising.

For the real-life version of this particular brief, we ended up choosing a (then) unreleased song by singer/songwriter Anya Marina called “Apple of My Eye”. You can see the finished spot here (if you didn’t see it on TV back in the fall!): http://www.vapormusic.com/licensing#wind-mobile-backseat-browser

This song was a favourite for the client because it was simultaneously sweet but a little bit sassy, it was quirky without feeling forced, and captured the spirit of a young girl having fun being a kid.

I’ve provided some feedback on the eight finalist songs below. I can nearly guarantee that after reading my comments, you will be tempted to think “well, if I had *seen* the spot I would have done X, Y or Z differently,” and I agree. In advertising, often we’re given a brief and a musical direction before seeing footage, or even before reading a script or seeing a storyboard. You may think that something written or selected will be absolutely perfect — until you see the rough footage. For that reason, I didn’t want to give too much information from the get go, as a large part of the challenge is working with very little knowledge of the final product.

That being said, huge congrats to all songwriters involved in this challenge!

“Shooting Star” – by Scott MacKay
https://soundcloud.com/scottmackay/scott-mackay-shooting-star/s-GygZ1

Instrumentation and feel is great – upbeat without being too fast or poppy. The simplicity of the acoustic guitar and added whistle works well to capture a childhood essence. I love the lyrics and the non-worded vocal hook, which is always helpful in creating different edits and providing a vocal element even if lyrics end up being too distracting.

For this particular spot, I think the feel may be slightly too relaxed, and a cleaner production on the vocals would help them pop in a busy ad mix. However, the song has definite potential for use in advertising and beyond.

“Oh I Love You” – by Gordon Wong & Kathryn Berry

I really like the instrumentation and vocals in the track – the sweet female vocals works really well to capture childhood, and the instrumentation feels both quirky but modern at the same time, which is a hard thing to achieve.

A few of the lyric lines are a bit wordy for advertising with lots of syllables, but the “Oh I love you / Yes I really do” and the “oh oh oh oh oh” sections do enough to contrast that nicely so there would be lots of options to choose from in a mix.

I would love to see the track build somewhat more as it works its way through – whether it’s a contrasting bridge or something to use alongside the “Oh I love you” lyric. I would expect that to happen in the “oh oh oh oh oh” section, but the instrumentation actually simplifies there instead of builds, and so there’s no real musical difference between that and the “Oh I love you” section, which would be nice to hear.

“Rainbows & Butterflies” – by Tea Petrovic

I think the lyrics for this are great. It captures the essence of childhood wonder without being explicitly “kiddie”, where a lot of songs that try and capture childhood often sound more like nursery rhymes. This song still appeals to an adult audience, who are the ones buying products and the ones that the spot is targeted towards!

For this particular use, I don’t think the instrumentation on the song is quite quirky enough — it’s slightly too large of a sound to feel child-like in this particular context.

“One Two Three Four” – by Judy Marshak and Gordon Wong

I love the tempo and movement of this song. It moves forward without rushing and has a great energy. The lyrics are also wonderful.

Contrastingly to “Rainbows and Butterflies”, “One Two Three Four” is slightly too quirky – the use of the tuba and kazoo definitely ups the comedy factor, which works in one aspect, but it takes away from the sincerity slightly.

“Home For Dinner” – by Allister Bradley and Sean Bertram

I love the “whole world at my fingertips” sentiment of this song – it works really well for advertising as brands love the idea of their product opening up new possibilities for the user. I think the “gotta be home for dinner” sentiment would be better suited for a food product than this particular commercial, but this song has great potential for an advertising use. The whistling hook is a great contrast from the verses, and would allow an editor plenty of opportunities to work to picture.

“Incredible Places” – by Heather Meori

I absolutely love the lyrics on this song – they’re spot on and mixed with the “Yai dai dai dai” and whistled sections, capture childhood beautifully. The slower tempo of the song makes it not quite as playful as we would need in this particular spot — speeding it up a bit may be enough to counteract that. The guitar tone doesn’t feel quite as clean in production as we would need to go to air.

“Long Long Way” – by DC James

This song also works perfectly lyrically, I love the “long long way to go” sentiment. It’s playful and kid-like without feeling forcefully quirky. I like the piano riff between verses as well – it’s a great contrast with the acoustic guitar. The biggest challenge this song would face in advertising is its country vibe — country is one of the few divisive genres in music, and generally does not do well in advertising as it still alienates a large audience that does not listen to the genre. I think the instrumentation for the most part feels more folk than country, but with the vocals it definitely has a bit of a country feel. Toning that down would certainly give the song a more mainstream appeal for advertising and licensing purposes.

“Fine With Wasting Time” – by North Easton

Overall, the song feels a bit too dense for this light-hearted advertisement — there’s a lot of depth to the vocals, and mixed with the warm guitar tone and the slightly slower tempo, the song loses the playfulness that we’re looking for on this particular brief. However, those elements could also be exactly what someone is looking for on another spot, so I wouldn’t consider them detriments to the song, they just create a slightly more nostalgic or “tugging on the heart strings” feel to the song that is just a bit much for this particular spot.

In Conclusion
If I were the client and choosing between these eight songs for this particular spot, my pick would be “Oh I Love You”. It captures that bit of sassiness that the young girl in the spot exudes, is playful, and has lyrics that speak to both the “relationship status” joke at the end of the spot and the kid having fun with her dad’s phone. It’s a fun song and has a great overall vibe that works with the ad.

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2 thoughts on “Writing for a childlike ad spot – Week 3 Challenge – Feedback from Heather Gardner

  1. Pingback: Writing for a childlike ad spot, the results | jamesmcgeemusic

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