Academic journal article Music, Sound and the Moving Image

Music and Memory in Advertising: Music as a Device of Implicit Learning and Recall

Academic journal article Music, Sound and the Moving Image

Music and Memory in Advertising: Music as a Device of Implicit Learning and Recall

Article excerpt


Based on the blueprints of film music theory, the musical element in a commercial TV spot reinforces or directs the viewer's attention towards the elements that the advertiser wants to emphasise. Music in TV commercials, as in film, may be considered semantically a collaborative sign,1 since it reinforces the meaning of what is depicted and also has a secondary attentive role, since the focus of the viewer's attention is on the visual track. The music reinforcing an advertising spot could be considered semantically either as index - music initially unfamiliar to the audience functioning as index of the advertising spot - or symbol-index2 - music familiar to the audience, composed for another social or cultural purpose and appropriated for its commercial use.

Music may play several roles and have many effects in advertising: it may attract attention, carry the product message, act as a mnemonic device, and create excitement or a state of relaxation. Music functions, not only semantically but also in the viewer's memory, as an index of the advertising spot. 'Music can function wonderfully well as a retrieval cue. While music is frequently used in commercials it appears surprisingly rarely as a deliberate constant across campaigns' (Sutherland & Sylvester 2000, p. 216). Zaltman's statement on the primary aim of ad campaigns could be combined usefully here with this role of music as retrieval cue: 'Ad campaigns aim to facilitate a consumer's storage and recall of the feelings and thoughts associated with the product' (2003, p. 166). The role of consumers' cognition is taken seriously by marketers and creatives within the commercial field. 'An advertisement - any advertisement - has a very difficult task if it is to capture the perception of a consumer and an even harder time, once perceived, to make a net addition to what the consumer already knows about the brand.' (Weilbacher 2003, p. 232)

In the case of TV advertising, the viewer's 'focusing attention' is presumed to be a prerequisite for the elaborative encoding necessary to integrate the commercial's message with the viewer's long-term knowledge store such that it might explicitly influence subsequent perceptions, feelings, thoughts and actions (Weilbacher 2003).

What Weilbacher terms 'the viewer's focusing attention' refers to the mechanisms of explicit memory. The distinction between explicit and implicit memory is an important one and although there has been some discrepancy in the literature about how the terms are used, it essentially refers to the way in which information is retrieved. Schacter (1987) defined explicit memory as being 'revealed when performance on a task requires conscious recollection of previous experiences' and stated that implicit memory is 'revealed when previous experiences facilitate performance on a task that does not require conscious or intentional recollection of previous experiences.' Something that is explicitly recalled is therefore done so deliberately and consciously, and is said to be 'cognitively controlled' (Dowling et al. 2001).

Implicit memory, on the other hand, refers to the unconscious effect that a previous experience may have on our perceptual, motor, and cognitive behaviour; many implicit memories are memories of muscular acts, which have no language component (Parkin 2000). The phenomenon of implicit skill memory is perhaps the most characteristic example of this kind of memory: for example, one may know how to produce a clear tone on an instrument, but not be able to explain to anyone else how to do it (Snyder 2000, p. 73). Something that is implicitly learned is done so without deliberate or conscious reference to what is being learned. Many kinds of emotional memories, for example, appear to be implicit (LeDoux 1998, p. 201).

When a piece of information is perceived, it stays in our short-term memory for the average of 3-5 secs and, unless rehearsed, it is then forgotten (Parkin 1987). …

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