Categories
Branding

Lights, Camera, Audio: Why Sound Is Taking Center Stage

I’ve always been a TV show fan, and have been investing my Thursday and Friday nights on the next episode in my favorite drama or sitcom for a long time — this was  before on-demand streaming allowed for bingeing, my recent pastime. If you’re a fellow binge-watcher and don’t click the convenient “skip intro” button, you’ve heard your favorite shows’ theme songs about a million times. Last night when I was swaying along to The Office’s theme song, a near nightly ritual of mine while preparing dinner, I got to thinking: what makes these songs so sticky? Is it strictly the emotional tie I have to the show, and actually has nothing to do with the creative itself? Luckily, I work at Veritonic, so I could get an answer to this question the next day at work. And lucky for you, you’ll get the answer now. 

We won’t be spending much time with the methodology here, or how Machine Listening and LearningTM works technically, as our website has plenty of detail on that subject. Basically what you need to know is for years Veritonic has been ingesting loads of creative assets – from podcasts, audiobooks, voiceovers, music, and ads – and has used insight from human response data to power an AI platform that can quantify the value of sound. So we could have done a lot here, but being a millennial, I really just wanted to prove that my generation’s theme songs like The Office and Parks & Rec were better than oldies like Mash and Seinfeld – sorry if I’ve dated you. 

Also, apart from my own generation biases, I thought that House of Cards would do very well because of the rumors that Netflix developed House of Cards with a heavy reliance on data: what type of script plays well with viewers, what type of protagonist will viewers root for, what are some of the other most watched shows on the streaming platform, so on.

But let’s see what the machine said.

For those in West Philadelphia, born and raised, you’ll be happy. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was most memorable. And although I’m not from Philly, the nostalgia of “playin’ b-ball outside the school” made the theme song resonate with me. The references to school-aged tifs and visiting distant family brings me back to my childhood as I’m sure it does for you. Memorability achieved; thanks Fresh Prince for reminding me that I was once an awkward kid with acne. 

And apparently Netflix’s money was well spent because House of Cards had the top Veritonic Audio Score (a composite score of emotional attributes, recall, and engagement) along with the highest score for authenticity. These results are no surprise to me, which is a nice break from the rollercoaster of emotions that the show elicits on viewers. HOC draws a strong tie from it’s engaging intro score to encouraging viewers to route for the “Bad Guy”. From the protagonist’s knee-jerk temper to the mysterious slaying of political rivals, we are committed to his path to the presidency. Enough about Politics, onto the Office Politics with…. The Office. (See what I did there.) 

The Office performs well on its engagement score which is nice to see as the show is riddled with examples that most working adults can relate to. From bad luncheons to office romance, we feel as though we’ve been there before, heard that gossip, seen that drama unfold.

All of the songs wound up scoring higher than Veritonic benchmarks. That means relatively speaking, they are all good creatives. It’s possible all these producers just got lucky, a hit show and a hit theme song. But there is an alternative to betting on luck, taking a lesson from the highest performer of the bunch, House of Cards: use data. For those that read this and still choose not to use data though, we always have the ‘skip intro’ button to fall back on.

Note from the author:

My job is to enable brands to understand and articulate the value their audio creative provides to the company and brand. I love connecting with teams on how they currently run their pre-market creative process. This example of how predictive modeling can enlighten creative testing and measurement was my way of finally settling a long-running debate I’ve had with my best friend. (Told you, Jake.)

If you’re curious to understand more about how our machine learning platform works and the data we derive from sound, I’d welcome the opportunity to connect. 

nangell@veritonic.com, LinkedIn

Categories
Audience Insights

In tricky times, the world turns to audio (again)

This article has been updated to include a new list of companies that are making audio content to support listeners. See below. 

From March 1933 to June 1944, Roosevelt addressed the American people in some 30 speeches broadcast via radio, speaking on a variety of topics from banking to unemployment to fighting fascism in Europe. Millions of people found comfort and renewed confidence in these speeches, which became known as the “fireside chats.” (history.com)

Not that he had too many other options at that point, but FDR clearly understood the power of radio to speak to and comfort the American people in a time of crisis. In both his choice of words and the manner in which he delivered them — informally, with calm — Roosevelt was a master of leveraging the medium to placate public concern, even if temporarily.

In our own current period of complexity, audio’s ability to comfort the world is more powerful than ever. Part of that power lies in the sheer number of options now available to us, from radio to streaming services to podcasts. Some of it surely lies in the fact that audio programming can be churned out easily wherever you are — perfect for the age of social distancing! 

But perhaps the most powerful part — as it was in the case of FDR — is built from smart, compassionate people. Getting up-to-the-minute news on developments is, of course, critical, but we’re talking about something different. Coming up with innovative ways to capitalize on the medium and develop programs that engage, distract, or otherwise remind us that there’s still a lot of fun to be had, is just as critical. We should be thankful for the people who do it.

Update: April 1, 2020

As we all get a little more settled in our new normal (at least what will be normal for a little while), we wanted to continue sharing the ways audio – be that radio, podcasting, or music – is here to comfort us.  There are obviously plenty more, as you see/hear them, don’t forget to share them! 

  • We are loving Pandora’s social campaign #WFHTips where members of the Pandora team share how they are keeping calm these days. This example is from our friend Steve Keller, Sonic Strategy Director at Pandora who practices ‘Virtual Commuting’.
  • Never expected 2020 was going to be the year that you took up a second career as a full-time teacher? Neither did we. Our partners at SiriusXM are giving parents a break with ‘Kids Place Live’ radio.
  • One perk for music lovers working at home is you can now listen out loud instead of through AirPods and have between-zoom-call solo dance parties. Veritonic team members were asked to each pick a song to add to a playlist with other audio industry members — check out our top picks! Isolation Radio.
  • Now trending on Stitcher is Westwood One’s new podcast: Scott Galloway’s The Prof G Show. A little humor and economic advice can go a long way in uncertain times like these.
  • Last but not least, sometimes being in the know can calm nerves. In case you want to stay up-to-date on the latest news (minus the fake news) Coronavirus Daily by our partners at NPR is our go-to.

If you wish to give to others during this time, consider MusiCares’ coronavirus relief fund. 

Here’s our favorites from last week: