VP/Music Director, Leo Burnett
Gabe McDonough knows to be prepared for an overly specific music search from clients looking for a song to embody their latest product. But his dual knowledge of musicians themselves came in handy when Leo Burnett client Delta Faucet approached him with a particularly challenging pitch. "They wanted someone who could perform a recognizable song that plays on the product . . . using only water to produce the sound," McDonough says.
As a former bassist of Chicago bands like the Boas, which opened for Wilco on its Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tour, McDonough has a few musicians in his back pocket for unique requests like this. Within hours, he connected with current Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche—a guy he’d heard "make music using 24 crickets."
At first, Kotche agreed to take on the challenge of re-creating the Four Tops’ "I’ll Be There" using pots, pans, toothbrushes and Delta sinks. But when McDonough came back with the opportunity to appear on-camera in the national TV ad, Kotche was "a little hesitant." "If it was anyone else, I don’t think I would have done it," Kotche says. "But I trust Gabe and knew he would protect me. I had to ask myself, ‘Will it be interesting?’ Yes. ‘Will I learn something from it?’ Yes, because it was actually really challenging. Plus, if I saw one of my peers up there I’d be like, ‘Shit, I should’ve done that!’"
The Chicago connections don’t end there. McDonough recently compiled tracks for a 78 RPM record to commemorate the 78th anniversary of Leo Burnett, with the aid of local label the Numero Group, which specializes in vintage soul. "Of course Leo Burnett is a huge global network, and we do great work all over the world. But being in Chicago, I’m really influenced by all the music here. When it’s right in front of you, you can’t help but incorporate it into your own work."
In his previous gig as a music supervisor at fellow Chicago shop DDB, McDonough helped break Santigold to the masses with a Bud Light Lime synch for her track "Creator." Though he wouldn’t mind seeing lightning strike twice at his current agency, McDonough’s just as amped about revisiting old classics for clients like Kellogg, recently tapped Sam & Dave’s "Hold On I’m Comin’" and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s "Up Around the Bend" for Raisin Bran spots.
"It can add a little cost, but there’s a lot of magic in those original tapes," he says. "The days of just doing a cover because it’s cheaper are not the motivations anymore. I hold those original sounds in high regard, especially as a guy who collects old records."
Managing Director of Global Music Production, mcgarrybowen
The average mid- to large-sized creative agency typically employs one or two in-house music supervisors, if they don’t outsource the work entirely. So why, then, does Dentsu’s mcgarrybowen have a whopping 13 people in its music department? Because Jerry Krenach, the agency’s managing director of global music production, believes an audio strategy should be a part of each one of its clients’ platforms, whether it’s a digital ad for United Airlines, a national TV campaign for JPMorgan Chase, a digital spot for Kraft Foods or a ringtone for Verizon.
Music can even help Krenach’s company win new business, as it did for Pizza Hut, which selected mcgarrybowen over incumbent the Martin Agency in early September based on the use of an original song created specifically for the agency’s pitch. As a result, Krenach is now looking for a 14th person to help round out the team. Several of the music supervisors at mcgarrybowen function almost as music leads for accounts like Verizon (Search Party veteran Stephanie Diaz Matos) and Reebok (Media Arts Lab/Apple vet Jarrett Mason). "We do act as a team, but we do have some senior music producers who essentially liaise with the creative department for us. On any given campaign, someone is usually front-lining that job, and there’s about three other people in supportive roles," Krenach says.
And because Krenach’s role is global, mcgarrybowen chairman/chief creative officer Gordon Bowen will be tasking him with identifying international music opportunities for the agency’s clients. "We have offices everywhere from London to China, and it’s important to make sure we are musically current in those markets as we are in the U.S.," Bowen says. "In a dream world, I want to get to a place where China is informing and inspiring the U.S. and London is inspiring Mexico, because music is the global language and it speaks to people in a powerful way—probably more universally than any other language."
A seasoned arranger and musician himself, Krenach has held stints with Lenny Pickett’s band on "Saturday Night Live," performed with Paul Schaffer’s outfit on "Late Night With David Letterman" and even played New York’s Carnegie Hall. Perhaps that’s why he sometimes gravitates toward orchestral fare, like tapping George Gershwin’s "Rhapsody in Blue" for a series of United spots, or licensing an obscure Phillip Glass song for a major Verizon campaign. But the agency has also helped pair Alicia Keys with Reebok, using her song "Girl on Fire," and a pre-Civil Wars Joy Williams with Oscar Mayer for an original jingle, so the playing field is often wide open when it comes to outside pitches.
"I like to be sent music for music’s sake," he says. "Not really to be predetermined or suggested what it would be best-suited for. I like everyone to do research and see what we’ve been up to and be familiar with our client roster and how we use music, of course. But so many times we’re looking for unexpected tracks and surprising tracks. Ultimately, we’re like anyone who listens to music—we want to discover something really special."