Tag Archives: Tom O’Keefe

great minds on music : an interview with tom o’keefe

In this edition of our “Great Minds on Music” series, Uli Reese, President of iV2, catches up with Tom O’Keefe, Draftfcb Executive Creative Director, North America, at his office in Chicago. “Great Minds on Music” is a collection of interviews with some of the top names in the advertising industry, engaging them in conversations about music, audio and advertising.  If you’d like to read more from these innovative thinkers, selecting this link will aggregate all the interviews for easy viewing. 


Reese: What role does music play in your work as an advertising agency?  How important is it?

“…no matter how well you write a piece of dialog, or how well the visual elements come together, I think music is the thing that moves you the most” – Tom O’Keefe

O’Keefe: I think you can’t separate music from what we do as advertisers or as an agency. It’s always been part of the emotional context of a brand. It’s there to tap into your feelings – and hopefully get you to like a brand more because you’re affected by the music, whether you’re aware of that or not. There are times when you hear something and you’re like, “I love that music!” And other times where you’re not consciously aware of it, but it still moves you in a certain way. There was a classic era of jingles that stuck in your head, then we moved to an era where music is now probably more original, or at least about associating known songs, with brands. Now I’m hearing a lot about audio mnemonics and audio signatures and discussion about what brands sound like. Maybe that’s because the ubiquity of communication means you’ve got to be that much clearer about what your sound is.

Reese:  Can you talk a little bit about your process? When you’re creating a campaign, when and how does the music fit into the process?

O’Keefe: I think it should be from the start.  And unfortunately too often it’s looked at as an afterthought. You’ve gone through the idea, you’ve gone through some of the production process and then it’s suddenly: “Well, what’s the music going to be?” When really, music should be there from the beginning, because it helps you clarify the brand’s voice. I’ve done campaigns where music has been the driver from the beginning.  In fact, I’ve done the classic “when you don’t know what to say, sing it.” But even then we had to find the right vibe for the brand. I’m thinking of one in particular for amazon.com, about ten years ago, called “The Sweater Men.” And they were singing the strategy, OK?  They were singing prices and sales and deliveries and toys and inventory. It was self-effacing, it had a sense of humor, it had this kind of quirky retro kind of a vibe and this was all a reflection of Amazon’s brand at the time.

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