amp sound branding


Britta Poetzsch, Global Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather

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Poetzsch studied Social and Economic Communications at the University of Arts Berlin (UDK) before starting her career as a copywriter at Hildmann, Simon, Rempen and Schmitz in Düsseldorf in 1991. Her first projects there earned her a decoration at the Junior ADC and her first ADC medal. After a short stint at `Springer & Jacoby`, she joined KNSK, BBDO in Hamburg for seven years and worked on highly awarded clients such as Lucky Strike, Expo 2000 and Nordsee. In 2001, she quit KNSK to work as a freelancer in Berlin before joining McCann Erickson in Berlin as Creative Director for clients including Lufthansa, Siemens and InStyle. In 2010, Poetzsch was appointed McCann Germany’s Chief Creative Officer. After another stint at Serviceplan Sales in Munich as Managing Director, she returned to Düsseldorf in 2015 as Global Creative Director at Ogilvy & Mather. In November 2016, it was announced Poetzsch would take up the position as Chief Creative Officer Campaign at the Hamburg-based creative online agency Track.

Reese: How do you source new music to listen to, personally? What’s on your iPod or your iPhone?

Poetzsch: I have no music stored on it at all. I never actually listen to music with headphones on. At work, it would just distract me when I’m trying to focus… I listen to music at home, consciously, when I have a quiet moment, during breakfast or so. And it has to be classical music. I can’t even deal with pop music anymore. I like Mozart or Bach’s Brandenburg Concerts. Classical music helps me unwind.

Reese: It’s interesting you should say that about multitasking. It’s similar for me - I can’t have a proper conversation if the radio is on, for example. Like all men, I simply can’t seem to multitask.

Poetzsch: Well, women can’t either. It’s a myth that women are capable of multitasking.

Reese: What about work? How do you source music for your work?

Poetzsch: If I’m looking for a mood piece for a layout, I tend to browse through songs on Spotify, or I go through my friends’ playlists. 

Reese: How does your decision-making process in regards to music look like? When does music come into the game?

Poetzsch: It entirely depends, there’s no rule to it. We normally present an almost perfect product to the client at an early stage these days, when in the past we used to just talk about the script first. That means that music plays a role earlier in the process now, too. 

Reese: So you look for existing songs that you put on the layout?

Poetzsch: Yes, for moods, we use existing songs, though that can be dangerous if Elton John happens to be the artist who wrote the song you’re picking. If your client falls in love with it, you’re quickly facing budget issues, so you have to find a way out by having a piece of music composed that goes in the same direction. The whole process doesn’t make much sense, but that’s how it is.

Reese: You’re replacing lobster with crabmeat imitation…

Poetzsch: You could say that, but crab meat imitation doesn’t have to be bad! It just comes across as being inferior, and that’s the problem.

Reese: How would you solve that problem?

Poetzsch: It would make sense to sit down with the right people, music professionals, earlier on in the process - which I’ve only done once so far, and it was a great project. We held workshops for the client to find answers to the question, “How does my brand sound like?” and “How can I translate my brand values into audio assets?” – I think we did an exemplary job at it. Here’s the problem though: Most of the time, the budgets aren’t big enough for it, and there’s no time for it. It’s just not realistic. We’re flat out producing day and night, and we have no time to even think about music strategies. For us, music is just a little piece in the mosaic in that situation.

Reese: So you’re saying it would help to talk music earlier on in the process?

Poetzsch: Absolutely. Once you know in which direction the whole project is going, you should already have an idea of what kind of sound should go with it. And what’s even better is if the brand itself already knows what it should sound like.

Reese: Good point. Most brands are very disciplined when it comes to their visual and verbal communication, but very arbitrary when it comes to their audio.

Poetzsch: That’s true. I can’t think of a whole lot of brands that are recognizable by sound only. Or rather, brands that you can remember sonically. There aren’t that many of them. 

Reese: It’s not necessarily about an audio logo – think of Apple, a strong audio brand that doesn’t have a mnemonic. We have found that there’s a strong correlation between brand equity and a brand’s discipline in their audio behavior. So why don’t more brands pay attention to the way they sound?

Music is so intuitive – as a consumer, you experience it subconsciously, you don’t really think about it.

Poetzsch: That’s difficult to say. I doubt every brand executive is aware of the correlation you mentioned. Music is so intuitive – as a consumer, you experience it subconsciously, you don’t really think about it. It must be similar for brand executives. We’re visually driven people – visuals are just more visible, so to speak. So I guess it’s also a matter of educating people.

Reese: Do you see a shift in how important music has become over the last 20 years?

Poetzsch: I do feel that music is becoming more and more important. Advertising doesn’t happen without it anymore. Vodafone, for example, is doing a great job at it. 

Reese: Would you be able to recognize Vodafone by its sound?

Poetzsch: I think so. They often worked with hit songs.

Reese: It’s not just that. Vodafone uses music that is on-brand.

Poetzsch: That’s true. The songs are similar. I do believe I could identify a Vodafone song. There’s a dynamic about the music they use, it’s impulsive yet airy. And it’s always very modern.

Reese: Would it help you as a creative if there were audio standards for every brand that you worked on?

Poetzsch: Sounds like a rhetorical question to me! (Laughs.) Yes, that would definitely help. You’re given a frame, but it’s still your job to draw the picture inside the frame. You can still choose your colors, metaphorically speaking. 

Reese: So you would welcome a certain set of rules for the way a brand should sound like? 

Poetzsch: Yes. It’s similar with the visuals, actually. Sometimes you’re working on a brand with a very defined corporate brand design, and as a creative you might feel a little handcuffed at first. But you have to see it as a challenge. It’s an art to work with these rules and fill them with life.

Reese: If you compare Vodafone and Telekom – Vodafone has committed to a certain music genre, while Telekom follows very rigorous audio standards. 

Poetzsch:  Telekom also has a very famous audio logo. One of the most recognizable audio logos there is.

Reese: Absolutely. Telekom are very disciplined at executing their audio brand strategy. So which brand would you hypothetically prefer to work with? Vodafone or Telekom?

Poetzsch: I do like my executional freedom. But I generally prefer having a clear set of rules, a frame, or a claim, that I can use as guidance – a dance floor that I can move on. That dance floor has to have a decent size though.

Reese: You’re quite successful at your job. How did you develop your sense of knowing when an idea is really good? This isn’t specifically about music.

Poetzsch: That’s very intuitive. I follow my gut instinct, but with the brief in mind. Although when I see something that moves me or appeals to me, and it’s not 100% on brief, I’m ready to defend it in front of the client, and fight for it. I’m also very quick to decide what’s good and what isn’t. I don’t breed over it.

Reese: But is there a recipe? A kind of manual that helps you make up your mind?

There isn’t a more direct way to people’s emotions than through music.

Poetzsch: Intuition grows out of experience. You have to do your research. Take Cannes – just browse through all the Cannes winners, and you’ll know what it takes for a piece to be a winner. It will make you get better at what you’re doing. When I come home from Cannes, I always feel very inspired. 

Reese: What would be the core message you want to get across in this interview?

Poetzsch: We should always ask ourselves what it is we want to achieve for the brands we work for. We want to touch people and appeal to their emotions. If we manage to do that, people are willing to listen to us, engage with the brand, and, ultimately, spend money on it. And there isn’t a more direct way to people’s emotions than through music.

britta poetzsch, ogilvy&mather sound branding, music in advertising, sound identity

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