Monthly Archives: March 2014

great minds on music: an interview with james hilton

James Hilton AKQA Co-founder,  shares his insights in this edition of our “Great Minds on Music” series. “Great Minds on Music” is a series of conversations with some of the top names in the business of advertising and Uli Reese, President of iV2. If you’d like to read more from these innovative thinkers, selecting this link will aggregate all the interviews for easy viewing.


Reese: So let’s dive in: how important is music in your work?

Hilton: Massively. Music, like smell, evokes more emotions than vision. If you’re played a piece of music from your youth, that will evoke far more emotion than a photograph will. It’s almost instant recall. And those things are incredibly powerful when you’re creating a brand or working with brands. One recent piece of work I wish we’d done is an iPhone game called the Nightjar, for Wrigley’s Five Gum. You have to use your headphones – and it’s done using binaural sound recording: 3D sound. The premise is that you’re walking through a spaceship that’s being attacked by aliens. But all you have on your screen is a left arrow, a right arrow, and two pads for walking. The game is created entirely through sound – your hearing triggers your imagination, which is far scarier than any special effect. But to answer your question: sound is everything.

“I don’t speak in musical terms, I don’t know the difference between a quaver or a semi-quaver, but I understand emotion…” – James Hilton

Reese: Do you think music can change behavior?

Hilton: I think it can make you more susceptible to certain suggestions. When you go to a punk concert, you feel a bit violent – but it’s a good violence, a cathartic violence. But when you listen to classical music, you feel smarter, more intellectual, because the music carries a cultural significance. If you meet me at a punk concert you’re going to find a slightly different person to the one at the classical concert. We all know that music influences mood. For instance, there must be all sorts of scientific data about music that makes you want to linger in a store. It has a similar effect to classical music: “You’re an enlightened consumer – so this is where you want to be.”

Reese:  So you believe it’s possible to modify the behavior of consumers?

Hilton: You’re not creating new behaviors, you’re tapping into existing behaviors and amplifying them by using different musical genres. Continue reading