The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in advertising music

The influence of Ennio Morricone, who died last week aged 91, extended beyond movies into advertising. Here, MassiveMusic’s Paul Reynolds examines the lessons the ad industry can learn from the legendary composer

We get asked around ten times a year to either create something Morricone-esque or license one of his scores (usually Ecstasy of Gold, obviously). “What is it about Ennio Morricone’s music that you like so much?” we ask. And every time the answer is linked to the storytelling, emotion and how recognisable it is. And we can’t really argue with that.

When we start working with a new client, we like to sound out how receptive they are to something new, something a little different to their usual direction and whether they will put their trust in us in developing it. When Ennio Morricone composed the scores for the spaghetti westerns, director Sergio Leone would have done just that – he had no idea how the ideas and colours in Morricone’s mind would translate, it’s still hard to even know the genre the music falls under! But he trusted in his creative vision, he was open to that collaboration and expertise and he took the risk. And boy, did it pay off.

So what makes it so effective? When you think back to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and the iconic ‘wah-wah-wah-wah-wahhhh’, you immediately think about the emotion you felt at the time of watching – and that’s down to the music. The scene doesn’t actually have a lot going on – it’s long, it’s drawn-out, it has no real dialogue. The music tells the whole story, creating the entire narrative and emotion of tension. It was ground-breaking.

Unsurprisingly, his work is popular with brands and agencies. Off the top of my head, I can think of a number of brands who have used Ecstasy of Gold in their advertising. D&G, Lamborghini, Nike, KFC and, currently, H&M. And I’m barely scratching the surface here. It’s been used everywhere. And does that matter? Well, yes.