'Image is the gun, sound is the bullet that hits you in the heart'

In a four-parter on the importance of music in advertising, Gijs de Swarte talks to several of his fellow industry specialists. Part 4 with Bram van Alphen.

Bram van Alphen, director at Hazazah: 'The song behind the commercial… it's so important. I can completely lose myself in it. Effectively you're taking the client's ratio, reason and logic and transforming it into emotion. As a filmmaker I always try to tap into that as well and work from there.'
'And sometimes with that gut feeling you are able to completely convince all parties involved, from creative to marketeer. One of the first times I experienced that was with Lemz for our Ikea campaign. The music had already been pitched at an early stage, but together with The Missing Sync's Aron van der Ploeg I was still looking for a better, more fitting alternative. And that's when we came across Home, by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The song hadn’t been released yet in the Netherlands, the festival season was still upon us and the band was about to embark on a fully booked tour. We could still claim that summer hit-potential. It became a massive success and Ikea continued to use it for several years. Excellent example as well of music completely lining up with your concept. I mean - "Home", how much more literal can you get?'

Like an angel
'In music it's essentially the same as in casting - so often you'll reach the point where words fall short; and that's where the emotion that really touches you is. An example: last year I was working on a film for WereldOuders, an organization that provides homes for children in South-America. A very heavy and touching subject. It's easy to fall into the melodramatic and double up on the innate heavy-heartedness. That's something I wanted to avoid. After a long and difficult search we happened upon Agnes Obel. A globally famous star. She sings like an angel, her voice embraces you softly, almost motherly, but there's also this ominous quality to her sound. This contrast turned out to pluck all the right heartstrings. And on top of that she was prepared to work free of charge. Amazing.'
Very clear and convincing
One more example of the enormous importance of music in advertising in Van Alphen's work: 'Divine, fragile, delicate, exciting, like opening the Pearly Gates and walking towards the light… These kinds of associations are what you see in Leonardo Da Vinci's work. Anything but specific and still, when you see and hear the commercial we made last year for the Da Vinci exhibition in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem all those terms make sense. You can see and hear them (the music was made by Good Sounds, currently known as Postoffice Sound & Music).'
'That's what I like. Starting from nothing and working off your intuition towards something that becomes very clear and convincing. When I began studying under Thed Lenssen he told me: "Image is the gun. Sound is the bullet that hits you in the heart." That's something that I still live by to this day.'

Part 1 of the four-parter was with Daniëlle Guirguis of Smarthouse Films.
Part 2 was with Niek Eijsbouts of SuperHeroes.
Part 3 was with Diederick Hillenius of Selmore.

Text: Gijs de Swarte