We Need To Stop Marginalising Sound

We Need To Stop Marginalising Sound

Continuing the conversation around sound in marketing, Saatchi & Saatchi suggest everything defaults to  visual and we need to look at sound as part of the overall delivery and be more considerate of the craft.

We live in a world that has seen an unprecedented proliferation of media devices, commonly known as ‘screens’. This term in itself describes the intrinsic inequality of sound vs. visual in our attitude to media.

We are incredibly visually driven. So, despite the billions we spend each year on headphones, speakers and (very soon) haptic technologies; when it comes to describing things that contain both visual and audio ideas we generally submit to the visual. Herein lies our prejudice. So when budgets are tight, it is often sound that gets squeezed by the industry.

Sound has been abused by the industry too. Over the last 15 years marketers and media owners believed they could employ the same “captive audience” philosophy to online media as they have enjoyed in more traditional channels, i.e. “I’ve paid all this money to put this here, so you will listen to it whether you like it or not”. This manifested in the form of auto-playing ads with sound.


To auto-play an ad with sound demonstrated a complete ignorance or disregard for online surfing behaviour. For the consumer, opening a tab with auto-playing sound was akin to discovering too late that the park bench you just sat on was wet. Until much needed intervention through site policy and technology occurred, the usual way a consumer would deal with this assault was: “A banner/tab is playing sound? SHUT. DOWN. EVERYTHING.”

This sociopathic attitude toward the consumer has further weakened the role of sound in marketing. This logic usually followed: “Engagement rates with this content are low. Engagement rates with the soundless version is much higher. Sound is clearly not important.” This is wrong.

Humans process a lot of information aurally; this is especially true of emotional information. Used correctly and with respect for the audience and their behaviours, sound can be an incredible tool for the marketer. Today headphone manufacturers are experiencing halcyon days in the sales of their wares, and consumers have access to significant advances in audio electronics.

Many moons ago I worked with Fallon London on Sony’s ‘Power of Sound’ Soundville campaign. It was here that I was first introduced to the development, application, and refinement of binaural recording systems. This is a century-old method of audio recording that captures lifelike 3D audio in “picture-perfect fidelity” (yet another visually skewed bias). Ideal for creating deep, immersive and captivating content online, and a great way to use the medium for a message rather than abuse it.

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Advertising Standards Bureau nco

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