Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Background Music Changes Are Processed First, Reducing Ad Message Recall



Two experiments were conducted to determine how background music can impact the recall of an ad message.

The first experiment had 132 third year business majors who voluntarily participated in this study. The study was described as an advertising concept test to explore alternative ad designs with no indication of researching into background music. Participants watched the aids on computer screens and ranked each of them on a 5 point liker scale. Then they recorded the brand ad and message they recall seeing. There were 6 experimental ads with topics of a car, athletic shoes, fitness water, long-distance service, cat food and an ADIS charity, were created which were based on Clio award winners. One ad had sound effects while the other five playing background music. The order of the ads had an equal chance to be placed in the beginning, middle and end.

Results indicate that an average of 79% of participants correctly recalled the advertised brands, just 53% recalled the message. Experimental evidence suggests that background music changes interrupt processing of brand and message information, reducing message recall. Message recall from ads with background music was significantly lower than message recall from ads with sound effects and no music. More harmonic changes, multiplied by distinct instruments also reduce message recall. At faster tempos, changes are heard more frequently, increasing distraction frequency and reducing recall. By re-orchestrating music for fewer distinct instruments or subtly changing tempo ought to reduce distraction and improve message recall.

The purpose of the second experiment was to reduce background changes to improve the recall of the ad brand and message. This experiment had 52 third year undergraduates view an advertising concept test. The backgrounds of the ads from the first experiment were modified (replacing an orchestral except with a piano reduction and increasing the tempo of a piece) upon and reused in the second experiment. Participants watched the ads, were asked to complete a 10 minute distraction activity and then asked to recall the ads.

The results from experiment 1 and experiment 2 produced similar results when it came to recall of ad brand and messages. Results indicate that there was an increase in recall when the tempo was increased and only one timbre quality being used.

Overall, experiment one results demonstrate that brand message recall is higher when the rate of background music change is less. This is expected from higher priority processing of background sound changes. Experiment two results demonstrate that reducing the rate of background music change, by replacing an orchestral except with a single instrument or increasing tempo very slightly, retaining the same music backgrounds and can improve brand message recall. Music changes are processed first before brand and message elements.


After reading this research on how music affects advertisement recalls, it made me remember that music as a powerful tool of communication. Many of the television advertisements that I encounter all have background music playing. Marketers have to determine which type of music best resonates with consumers so their ad will immediate capture the viewers’ attention.

This study looked at ads which a message, which is when the harmonic changes and many instruments may distract the audience. Most ads we watch and listen to feed the viewers all the important information, attract more attention by evoking emotional responses, or even trigger more images from ad viewers, achieving affective goals.

This study has other implications can be tied to areas in our lives such as distraction. If music is processed first, this means that when drivers are listening to the radio or music in their car, they will automatically become distracted. Our brain processes these musical ideas before processing other things that are happening around us.

This is another application for students when they are listening to music while they are completing their assignments and studying. “When music I heard in the background, processing of other task-related material is compromised and reduced” (Fraser & Bradford, 2013, pg.72). Prior research has indicated that studying with music has allowed the brain to make connections with the song and the content being studied. It is important for students to re-evaluate this idea of studying with music.


Alicia Mighty said...

Hi Pam,

I would like to see more research done in this arena to know how background music would either enhance or interfere with store clerks' ability to function in the workplace (in terms of multitasking). It would be interesting to see the functioning of the pre-frontal cortex on an fMRI during this process.


Danielle said...

Hi Pam,

Great point relating these conclusions to driving and studying with music in the background.

One thing I wish they had elaborated on is how/if simple, short melodies that are pleasant to hear actually increase the consumers' ability to remember and associate positive attributes with a product. Marketing needs more music majors perhaps!


Branko Dzinovic said...

This interesting study argues that our brain favours certain stimuli over another. The questions, however, is, why? Why music related events used during ads have such a strong effect while other information, provided in a different manner, seems to be less relevant. This is an interesting introduction to the study of prioritizing sensory inputs in the brain. For example, our attention is often drawn to things we see; the drawn is sometimes so intense that we fail to notice that somebody is addressing us verbally. I would argue that experience plays an important role in prioritizing events around us, but new sensations may be equally interesting and engaging. Again, this is an interesting topic and a good review, which provides room for numerous questions and discussions.

Thank you,