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Advertising & Audio Branding Strategy: Goosebump Moments: A Conversation with Adam Pleiman - Part 1
Episode 19112th July 2023 • Audio Branding • Jodi Krangle
00:00:00 00:34:02

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“Music’s played a major role in my life growing up. It’s always been ingrained in me. So, you know, I remember as a really young kid, like kindergarten, going to my grandparents’ house or great grandparents’ house and mashing the keys on their Wurlitzer organ, right? And then mom and grandma are in the other room going ‘sounds great, hon!’ And I’m like, ‘yeah, it’s great.’ Notice they weren’t in the room with me, they were in the other room, because there’s a volume pedal on that thing.” -- Adam Pleiman


My next guest is always in search of the next “goosebump moment” and takes pride in eliciting that reaction from those that he works with. His extensive background as a Grammy-nominated engineer, accomplished composer, producer, and musician brings an expert foundation to his role as creative director at Play Audio Agency. His name is Adam Pleiman and he has a unique perspective, having viewed so many facets of the audio industry and approaching it now through a sonic strategies lens. There’s a lot to talk about, and I look forward to sharing our discussion with you!

As always, if you have questions for my guest, you’re welcome to reach out through the links in the show notes.  If you have questions for me, visit where you’ll find a lot of ways to get in touch. Plus, subscribing to the newsletter will let you know when the new podcasts are available. And if you’re getting some value from listening, feel free to spread that around and share it with a friend, along with leaving an honest review. Both those things really help – and I’d love to feature your review on future podcasts. You can leave one either in written or in voice format from the podcast’s main page. I would so appreciate that.


Taking Things Apart

We start the episode off with a look back at Adam's early memories of sound, from his family's Wurlitzer organ to the childhood joy he took in tinkering, taking things apart, and trying to put them back together. He particularly recalls a precocious 7th-grade science fair project he came up with on radio and television jingles and the marketing effectiveness of different audio techniques. “I don't even think I got a great grade on it either,” he jokes, looking back on it. “They didn't understand. They just didn't get it. They weren't there yet. And that's, I think that's part of this industry as well.”


The Immersive Side

Adam tells us more about how his curiosity when it came to experimenting with the world around him helped hone his audio instincts even as it left the appliances around him in shambles. “I'm like, wow, that's really cool,” he says about a washing machine console that he took apart as a child. “It's never gonna do that again, because now it's in all these pieces. But I loved that stuff.” He tells us about a college experiment in ambient sound that left his friends stunned and paved the way for a lifelong fascination with exploring how sound secretly shapes our perceptions. “The immersive side,” he says, “the binaural side, the perception of it all, I think, has always been a curiosity.”


Removing the Subjectivity

We talk about how that teenage sound setup with headphones and kitchen utensils mirrors Dolby’s latest Atmos sound systems. Adam explains what sets Atmos apart from older, more hardware-driven surround sound, and why he believes it has more staying power. He tells us how he transitioned from a career as a musician into sonic branding, and how he’s working to make sound design as rigorous a field as graphic design. “It's like, well, I could say that about colors,” he says. “I could say that about shapes. I could say that about design. I could say ‘I'd know it when I see it’ about the design, but that industry has done a really great job in removing the subjectivity from those decisions.”


The Texture of Sound

Adam also tells us how he works with clients in finding the tones and textures of sound, and how important it is to speak the right language and avoid audio jargon like timbre and pitch, “I've learned over the years,” he explains, “that if I use words like timbre and instruments, half the faces in the room go blank.” We discuss the balancing act between art and science, and how important it is to keep the consumer’s needs in mind.  “At the end of the day,” he says, “did it move the needle? Did we achieve the goals we wanted to achieve, and is the creative spot-on? Those two go hand in hand.”


Episode Summary

  • Adam’s childhood memories of sound, from piano lessons to washing machines
  • What a teenage audio experiment taught him about ambient sounds
  • Dolby Atmos and the algorithms that make it more versatile than surround sound
  • Bringing the objectivity of graphic design to audio branding
  • How he works to speak the consumer’s language and place their needs first


Tune in next week as we talk about the responsibility Adam believes audio advertisers have to create a better soundscape, as he shares the direction that he sees sonic branding taking in the future, and as we check out Play Audio Agency's wildly successful ASMR-inspired ad for Sport Clips.

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