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Landor & Fitch’s Amp deal proves WPP sees sonic branding as a sound investment

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By Sam Bradley, Journalist

April 27, 2023 | 7 min read

Generative AI tools, an established name and rising client demand behind acquisition, explain agency bosses.

Avocados from Mexico ad

Avocados from Mexico is one of Amp’s clients. / Amp

Sonic branding has become an increasingly noisy prospect for marketers in recent years. But for many brands, it’s a peripheral channel. And when economic circumstances push marketers towards budgetary caution, experimental work tends to get culled.

Which makes this moment an interesting one for holding company WPP to invest in the sector. The agency group acquired Amp – one of the best-known businesses operating in this space – for branding agency Landor & Fitch.

According to Jane Geraghty, global chief exec of Landor & Fitch, the acquisition is necessary to ensure it doesn’t rue an opportunity cost.

“We are ultimately in the business of connecting business to brand strategy, and then expressing that vividly through design so that we can help our clients build transformative brands,” she explains.

“Technology has had such a significant impact on the amount and the nature of opportunities that we have to express the brand. We can now explore every facet of a brand to tell a really compelling story, and to bring to life a brand's ownable equities.

“We’ve spent a number of years really expanding our design capabilities – historically, we were most famous for graphic design, and then we’ve moved into digital and motion, and experiential – and what we’ve witnessed is there are huge opportunities broadly in the area of sound. Many of our clients are interested.”

Though Geraghty notes that many of the agency’s clients haven't yet “necessarily taken a considered view” on audio work, Amp’s global chief exec Michele Arnese is armed with stats and figures to prove the channel’s worth. “We see that 70% of Gen Z are connecting to brands with sound. Now is the time, as sonic branding matures, for it to be part of strategic brand design.

“There are multiple data points that say, how powerful sonic assets are compared to visual assets. If you take a visual asset and the brand potential created by a visual asset is 1.0, the brand attention created by a sonic branding cue is 8.3 times higher.”

Geraghty says the deal will allow Landor’s clients to “consider the brand in totality from the start,” rather than approaching sound as an add-on activation less important than visual assets.

With Amp already an established name in the sonic branding sector, it will retain its brand. Current clients include Deloitte, Avocados from Mexico and Mercedes-Benz; it was the company behind Mastercard’s sonic brand. Geraghty says instead that it’ll “join the Landor & Fitch family” and that the team is “exploring how we can make the most of the partnership” as they bring the combined entity’s offer to market.

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AI audio branding

The acquisition also adds further AI capabilities to Landor & Fitch. Amp offers clients Sonic Hub, a proprietary set of AI tools that analyze and create audio assets for brands.

“We create with artists as part of our design process, but the AI is helping to create music out of what we define for the brand,” Arnese says. The tools can help Amp, and Landor & Fitch, produce audio brand assets at the kind of scale required by modern marketers.

“There is one big problem that all brands are facing right now with exploding digital content. You have advertising content that licenses tracks that sound premium. And then you have tons of digital content sounding like stock music. There’s a disconnect between different touch points. With our AI tools, we can create music that is not generic, that is your own, at scale.”

Arnese says that the amount of assets potentially available, and the fact that the agency may be designing elements that become central to a brand’s future engagement with consumers, keeps it compelling for cautious clients. “We are creating value for brands in terms of re-usable assets, investment in their own copyright. Whatever the economics are… we can bring brands to the next level of efficiency.”

Geraghty concludes: “While we’ve seen progressive clients understand the opportunity here… the reality is no brand is mute.

“They’re all using sound currently. The question is: are they using it strategically, and are they building on the equity of the brand, and really making the most of an ownable asset that can help bring your life your brand to life vividly across multiple channels.”

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