Advertising professionals may be wasting valuable resources on choosing expensive music to accompany their work thanks to a bias that is not shared by consumers, according to a paper in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

The study was written by Manuel Anglada-Tort (Technische Universität Berlin), Steve Keller (Studio Resonate/Pandora), Jochen Steffens (Hochschule Düsseldorf, University of Applied Sciences) and Daniel Müllensiefen (Goldsmiths, University of London).

This found that industry specialists “consistently evaluated advertising music more favorably when they were told it was from ‘real’ artists” than when it was commissioned or was sourced from generic libraries.

While these “source effects” had a major impact on the choices made by advertising practitioners, consumer perceptions of the same music was “not affected by source cues at all,” the paper said.

The gap between advertisers and their audience in this regard “could prove costly for brands” by encouraging them to spend more on music than is necessary.

“Professionals may recommend that their clients pay a premium for music coming from performing artists, but brands may see little or no added benefit if the source of the music does not matter to the listening public,” the study said.

This finding was contained in a paper entitled The impact of source effects on the evaluation of music for advertising: Are there differences in how advertising professionals and consumers judge music?

One of the underlying experiments saw a panel of 50 advertising professionals – around three-quarters of whom were based in the Americas – assess several pieces of music on a range of criteria.

This list included how much they liked it, plus its quality, authenticity, and “fit” with a product category (a list including financial services, soft drinks and a lifestyle brand), as well as the expected cost of using it in an ad.

A second round of research featured 113 people who do not work in the advertising industry, some 80% of which were located in the Americas. It used the same formula as the first study but omitted the expected cost from the list of considerations.

In assessing why advertising professionals rated music from performing artists more highly than material that was commissioned or sourced from libraries, the scholars made a suggestion.

“This finding could be due to the associations of this source with higher levels of credibility and attractiveness compared with the other sources used in this study,” the paper said.

Among the possible solutions for brands, which could potentially save money on music, are “increasing awareness among professionals” of their bias, and “measuring the impact of advertising music and source on target consumers,” the academics wrote.

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff