Classical thumris to rap: Pranaay on the nuances of composing music for Ads

Sneha Yadav
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Pranaay advertising

Meet - Pranaay who has composed music for over 500 ads. In conversation with Social Samosa, he shares his experience of composing foot-tapping music for advertising commercials and what make the beats an integral part of the campaign.

Meet Pranaay - a music composer whose latest work in advertising includes Gillette 's campaign 'Get Your Mach On' ft Shreyas Iyer, Shubman Gill, and Sanju Samson. Pranaay has composed music for more than 500 ads films to date which includes brands like Kia Sonnet, Mirinda, and more. A unanimous opinion states that sounds and music contribute to enhancing a visual concept and that Indian advertising is no different.

We get in conversation with Pranaay to deep dive into the 'Music Making' process for advertising campaigns, the challenges involved, and some behind-the-scenes coop.

Work Talk (Gillette Campaign) – Pranaay Advertising Journey

Pranaay describes his experience of working on the ‘Gillette Get Your Mach On’ as spectacular and recalls working with Sandipan Bhattacharya (MD & CCO at Grey Group) aka Sandy, Juneston Mathana (ECD at Grey Group), and Shoubhik Roy (Producer of Magic Lantern) the director Matthias Zentner.

"Working with these guys has been a breeze because we've always been in sync, we've done previous campaigns together, so they exactly know what to expect when they call Pranaay for the music," he exclaims. "The agency creatives had written a beautiful rap. So we had to modify it a little bit so that it flows better. We got a rapper from the US called, Lucci Damus, who I think has just killed it with his rap and with his delivery."

It all started with a trap hook. The team tried trap-based instrumentation as they wanted to make it very modern since the campaign targeted young adults and featured youth icons Shreyas Iyer, Shubham Gill, Sanju Samson.

Once the creatives jammed over the trap beat, they got Lucci Damus to perform his rap on it. The whole process took place on several zoom sessions and feedbacks. "We delivered that track in about one and a half months with the changes and edit. The entire process was extremely seamless," adds Pranaay.

Composing Music For Ad Films V/s Long Form Content

Composing for ad films is a completely different ball game than composing for long formats such as a 50-minute episode of a show or a movie. The most obvious is the shorter time span. Pranaay states, "The ad films are 30 seconders or one minute at most. Sometimes we'll have a director’s cut, which is 2-3 minutes. So, apart from the time, which is the most important factor, I think it is also important to present a shorter idea like you can't have long hooks in your ad jingles you need to have shorter hooks that can be repeated."

According to him, the sounds have to be much more modern if that's the kind of film to be done. Vocals don't take precedence in advertising as much. Most of the ad tracks are instrumentals whereas songs will have more vocal-based performances.

Apart from the time factor, he shares that the hook has to be shorter and more room for experimentation, in terms of instrumentation. One needs to underline and make sure that the product is emphasized, whenever there's a product window, it needs to have a mnemonic, which keeps repeating just like the Britannia thing (ting ting ting riding).

He says, "In long formats, you have a lot of time as the song grows into you. The audience also has the choice to listen to a song repeatedly, whereas in advertising you need to immediately catch the listener."

Also Read: Meet Divya Dutta – The actor you know, the voiceover you don’t

Sound Conception For Ad Campaigns

The basic yet important element that one needs to take into consideration while composing any music for ad campaigns is the - PRODUCT believes Pranaay. What is the product about? "I need to enhance the client’s product and make sure that it's more interesting, more appealing through my music. Secondly, it is the approach, what has the agency and the client decided? Once that’s finalized, I head forward to flesh it out completely in a musical way so that it's catchy and memorable," he notes.

Meanwhile, the directors also have certain inputs to take care of. Pranaay shares that sometimes he has to sit with the director to know as he will have decided to shoot the video in a certain way. He further briefs, "So I need to make sure that my music does justice to his vision and obviously, the agency, the director, the production house, the client everyone is in sync. I need to be in sync with all these different creative people and give work output."

The sound of ad films is very distinct, especially in India. It is this unique combination where you need to have Indian instruments, but at the same time, you need to have it backed up with electronic instrumentation.

Pranaay quips, "That's what gives us a lot more freedom as well. I think the amount of fun that we can have because of the diverse musical palette that we have, we can dip into different genres and just create something very quirky because we've so many cultures that we can just depend on. I can take, you know, nadaswaram and turn it into a hip hop beat, I can take a sitar and turn it into a rock style guitar. The possibilities are endless when it comes to sound in Indian advertising."

Power Of Sound In Advertising

Pranaay thinks the music and the sound of an ad film are as important if not more important than the visuals. You can still have radio jingles and audio jingles, but very rarely would you have a visual film without music and sound.

That a campaign can stand alone on the power of only music and sound as well. The directors, producers, and the agencies give that respect to music composers which he thinks is heartening.

When quizzed about his favorite ad film among the 500 plus reel, Pranaay finds it difficult to choose. But if he has to pick only one, he says ‘Mirinda Pagalpanti series’ starring Asin is his favorite.


Sharing some BTS about the advert, he recalls, "We had this mad film and with that, the music just went completely quirky. We actually went berserk while creating and incidentally Sandy (Sandipan Bhattacharyya) was part of this project as well. I think we make a great team in terms of that where it basically had a vocal hook of ‘Le patapat de patapat’. But is basically two people playing table tennis with the rackets on your head. It was extremely creative and bizarre going with the brand that ‘Pagalpanti bhi Zaroori Hai’."

Music In Ads As The Hero

"Aaj kuch toofani karte' hai for Thumbs up had an awesome beat," asserts Pranaay as he opines about the concept of music being the central character of an ad film barring the protagonists and celebrity endorsers. "I think that jingle had a completely innovative hook line. The music was great and the music production was tight."

From jingles to plain music to powerful narration, the 'sound' or music element has changed advertising in many ways. There's a whole revolution happening in the contemporary world with more formats of rap and musicals becoming popular. From the Indian classical thumris to jazz. The future, that Pranaay sees is cutting down a lot of it.

He opines, "The last few years we've been producing and overproducing and there are lots more sounds like the dubstep have come in and EDM was extremely heavily produced with lots of instruments. What I'm seeing for the future and how I see it evolve is that minimalism is going to take center stage in the next five years. People are going to go back to the melody. People are going to want to just drop down on the instruments and the production. They're just going to enjoy cleaner and lesser-produced tracks."

The associated memory with a certain piece of music tends to be strong. Nostalgia. Pranaay feels is the biggest friend and enemy of a music composer because sometimes when a client or an agency, gets a reference of something that is already popular he always tells the agency the clients that it's better, that you buy the rights of the song because nobody in the world can fight nostalgia.

"No composer can create a melody that can match nostalgia," he elucidates.

On the sidelines of this conversation, we had a rapid-fire round for Pranaay on his journey of making music for Indian advertising.

Fast 5

1. Favorite musical ad film

My favorite musical ad film would be the MP tourism one. I think that had brilliant music in it.

2.  Favorite genre of music for ad campaigns

I'm torn between folk music and hip hop. They are very two different genres but I think those work really well.

3.  Top 3 advertisements from the yesteryears that had great music

  1. Hamara Bajaj
  2. Nirma, Washing Powder Nirma
  3. ‘Kuch Khaas Hai Zindagi Mein' from Cadbury

4.  Top 3 advertisements with excellent music in recent times

I think the catchy ones in recent times, was one that was obviously iconic ‘You and I in this beautiful world’ for Vodafone. The second is a Havells ad ‘shock laga laga laga’. And the third one is really quirky gems ad ‘eklapekla ping ping’.

5.  5 tips to get the 'Science for Music' in advertising right

The first one is a catchy hook line, vocal hook, or instrumental hook. The second would be experimentation, creating something that the listener would not expect.

Number three is actually silences and breaks. Suddenly, if you play with silences, I think it works really well. The fourth one is meeting deadlines and the fifth one is edits, being open to changes from the client or from the agency.

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