People have a profound relationship with sound, starting with the sound of their mother's heartbeat 12 weeks after conception. Sound is the basis of all the human emotional bonds we form, and it's the first sense, Hertz said.
Sound affects us in four ways, he said, before blaring a hair-raising combination of sirens and alarms at the audience. “Physiologically, you've just received a short of cortisol," he said. "If that sound went on your heart rate and respiration would both increase.”
The sweet, quiet sound of bird song then filled the auditorium. “Psychologically, bird song makes us feel secure," he said. "It's deeply rooted in our psyche that when the birds go silent, danger is near."
Sound also affects us cognitively, he added, which is why open plan offices have been found to be less productive. Finally, sound impacts us behaviourally: we move toward sounds we like and away from those we don't.
Considering how much of an impact sound has, it boggles the mind that the creative industry pays so little attention to radio advertising and sound branding, Hertz argued.
“The truth is, ad agencies aren't proud of their radio work," he said. "How do I know this? Out of 2796 above-the-line entries in Spikes this year, 33.4 per cent was print, 25.2 per cent was for TV and only 5.5 per cent was for radio. The percentages hold true at Cannes and many other festivals. Why is this? Why aren't radio ads better than they are?”
One reason, said Hertz, is the intensely visual focus of creativity. The shame of it is that it doesn't translate into aural creativity. The second reason, in his opinion, are radio juries. “Most radio juries in the world are sending out the wrong message when it comes to radio," he said. "Just look at the Grand Prix winners over the past year, and while you're listening, look for originality, writing, art-direction, casting...you won't find any of it.”
Another reason is that brands just don't pay the same level of attention to sound as they do to sight. When banks' call centre voice messages are compared, they all sound the same, and they're fine with that. But if a bank were told that its logo closely resembled another bank's, heads would roll, Hertz said.
Brands also pay too little attention to environmental sound, he added. “I walk around the mall here and every store is playing a different song. A very expensive, prestigious brand let their young shop assistant choose the music – it didn't match.”
Sound can be so persuasive that when Glasgow Airport tried the experiment of playing an ambient track of bird song and soothing tones in the background on alternate days, sales were higher by 10 per cent on the days when the track was played.
“How much attention are you paying to these touchpoints for your brand?” asked Hertz. "What could you do with it?"