Brit Awards: ad breaks need to find their sound

As the BRITs wrap up for another year and FRUKT, alongside the entire music industry, stumbles shambolically into work around midday today (post the glut of always essential after parties), just what have we learnt from the evening’s high profile night of entertainment?

Watching from the relative comfort of the sofa (alongside some 6 million other viewers), the UK’s biggest night in music offered up a huge opportunity for brands to capture the passion of fans during those all important, and presumably costly, ad breaks – yet virtually none stepped up to the mic this year.

Mastercard, the sponsor of the event, naturally made good use of its partnership, working with key talent (Rita Ora, Conor Maynard, Deliah) and fans to produce a series of music focused bumpers, tying in seamlessly to its broader ‘Priceless’ initiative and NEYO competionHowever, of the 40 other ads broadcast during the show (excluding those for albums, radio stations or movies) 25% were eerily silent -completely void of any music whatsoever. More worryingly, out of those that did have music, a whopping 90% used generic background or jingle based music, with only 10% featuring any notable tracks.

With a sizeable audience of music fans avidly watching and waiting for those essential music moments that spark social conversations, the ad breaks during the BRITs offered little to get excited about. Not that there was much incentive to go social anyway, with only 10% of the ads highlighting any incentive to discover more through social media (via Facebook pages or hashtags).

O2, with its long-form Beyonce commercial, directed by Jonas Akerlund and featuring her upcoming (and yet unnamed) track that samples ‘Swordfight’ by Clay, was a notable exception, marking the only big budget ad of the evening. Blackberry’s Z10 ‘Keep Moving’ commercial, which showcased Australian indie rock darlings Tame Impala and their track ‘Elephant’, and Netflix’s use of ‘How I want Ya’ by J-Man featuring Laura Wilson, were the only other tracks likely to perk up fan ears during the ad breaks.

Elsewhere, Ford highlighted its Raphael Rozendaal art collaboration and Red Bull honed in on its Extreme Sports associations, with ads that, to both brands’ credit, at least focused in on some entertainment value, if not directly music related.

Watching the ad breaks during The GRAMMYS (the BRITs direct US equivalent) brings the lack of music and entertainment in the UK ad slots into even sharper focus, with Ford, Budweiser, Target, Covergirl, Hyundai and many others all striking an alignment with a music celebrity or some form of broader music campaign during the US broadcast.

This was the UK’s 'Musical Super Bowl' moment and the ads, somewhat unfortunately, didn’t take advantage of the moment. A well-placed ad viral, a cheeky musical nod to the BRITs itself, or a springboard for a broader music promotion, all of these presented key opportunities to connect with an audience of music fans both young and old, yet never materialised. Given the boon for music related ads in the run up to Xmas in the UK, and the great work John Lewis has done there to connect fans with both reworked tracks and new emerging artists, it’s surprising to not see similar activity during such a prominent music broadcast.

With 80% of Millennials (those 17-31) eager for brands to entertain them, the ad breaks during the BRITs 2014 will hopefully dial up the music, emotion and passion this audience has come to expect, as brands look to work the entertainment red carpet opportunity to their full advantage. 

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