It or That? The making of an earworm

When tasked by Angi to create a new campaign, we realized there was a huge opportunity to make ‘Angi’ into a verb. If you’ve ever Googled something related to home improvement, you know it is a nightmare. Where to begin? Who to trust? Angi solves these very basic problems. It was clear that we needed to highlight the benefit of turning to Angi over a search engine. When you want to make home improvements don’t Google it, Angi…. Do you “Angi it” or “Angi that”? “It” or “that?” Both are demonstrative pronouns that can be used interchangeably with subtle differences. “That” invokes a sense of otherness; “that” is further away than an “it”. Harder to reach and more of a problem. “That” it was then. And so the campaign platform and tagline was born “You can do this, When you Angi that.” 

Immediately the song “The Choice is Yours” by Black Sheep came to mind. “This or That, This or That.” With the trust of the Angi team, we set about licensing and rerecording the song with our music partner Howling Music. The track lifted the idea and raised smiles to everyone we played it to. A true earworm. 

Milk Agency ECD, Dan Scott-Croxford, sat down with Howling Music founder David Grow and composer Ryan Claus to talk about the project and how the track came to life.

Dan Scott-Croxford: How often do you get tasked with using a brand name in the lyrics?

David Grow:  Occasionally, and, you know, we’re always in favor of that. Why? Because it’s effective. For probably 20 years we’ve been hearing from creatives, “We don’t want to jingle.” And I’m always kind of tempted to go, “Well, why not?” Because they are incredibly effective branding tools. Some of the most effective branding tools in the history of advertising are jingles. And they’ve been kind of maligned as dopey or flat-footed or sort of obvious. Someone once said to us, “We don’t want to do a jingle, but we want to sing lyrics with the brand name in there.” That sounds like a jingle to me! If we’re singing the brand, that’s a f****** jingle, whether we call it that or not. 

Dan Scott-Croxford: Lyrics like “Angi That”? 

David Grow:  You obviously already had a kind of a command of the fact that “Angi it” is difficult from a linguistic and sonic standpoint. As music producers, we deal with this all the time when we’re working with singers, there are some sounds that just don’t sound very great. “Angi that” is way better linguistically, sonically, and from a pronunciation standpoint. 

Ryan Claus: It is a kind of a fine line from an execution viewpoint as to whether it’s interpreted as cheesy or if it actually works. I could see there are a lot of ways it could sound dopey if you’re gonna sing the brand name. You can’t be too on the nose.

Dan Scott-Croxford:  Where did you start when it came to the composition?

Ryan Claus: First, I deconstructed the beat and made my own pattern. And I added layering. I have like three snares in there. I wanted the piece to have an element of sampling. I played guitar because there’s some guitar in the original. This added a little more depth and texture. But it just didn’t sound right. I wanted it to also sound like a sample. I ended up just taking my riff and putting it into the sampler, and then I started playing the same notes on the piano to get it once more removed until it sounded like a sample element. 

Then we worked with Samantha Powell, our vocal producer in LA. She knows great talent and she’s written all sorts of hip-hop and has even written music with Black Sheep before. She got four people in the studio and they all sang to one track. All the instrumentals were the same key and the same length, so that it could be modular. These guys just crushed it. Sammy was really good at making sure she got all the special little aspects of the track, all the ad-lib stuff. You can hear that in the original track underneath everything and it’s very loud. It’s just super fun to work with those moments and just move them around.

Dan Scott-Croxford:  Obviously we’ve been listening to the track a lot in the edit. It really gets stuck in your head. What do you think are the elements that go into making an earworm? 

Ryan Claus:  I think music and speech are closely related in the human brain. We’re really primed to notice patterns in sound – especially in the human voice. 

David Grow: It’s almost as if music were intrinsic when you think about it. Music is air vibrating at different speeds. Another answer might be the simple, compelling little things that are not too complicated. Those tend to be the things that become earworms. Finding rhythmic, melodic and sometimes harmonic choices that are just compelling? It’s way easier said than done.

Ryan Claus:  They say when you’re making a song, if you can’t whistle it later then it’s not gonna stick in anyone’s head. If it’s not whistle-able then your mom’s not gonna be able to hum it, and no one’s gonna be able to remember it, So if you can whistle it, it’s probably going to stick around.

Dan Scott-Croxford: That’s a really good rule. You’re bringing this full circle, thinking about when we landed on the line “You can do this, when you Angi That.” Saying it out loud, the rhythm of the phrase instantly reminded me of the Black Sheep track, and I started whistling it. The earworm nature of the original track brought us here. Ha. 

David Grow: We work on a ton of stuff all the time, and a lot of the time we’re fortunate and lucky to be working on really cool projects. But once in a while, we’ll work on something where we’re going, “This is gonna work!” This was one of those times, honestly. This is going to work great.

Dan Scott-Croxford: Let’s hope so. Thanks for the lovely chat, chaps.

  • Client: Angi
  • CMO: Dhanusha Sivajee
  • Director of Creative: Katie Cranley
  • Copy Director: James Ryan

  • Agency: Milk Agency
  • Managing Partner: Angela Wei
  • Executive Creative Director: Dan Scott-Croxford
  • Account Director: Maggie Stankaitis
  • Lead Strategist: Mickey McAlary
  • Producer: Emma Stewart
  • Designer: Monica Lee
  • Jr Creatives: Alyssa Grubstein, Zhi Liang

  • Director: CD Morrish
  • Production Company: Spoon Films
  • Director of Photography: Ryan Carmody
  • Producer: Mel Loncich
  • Stills Photographer: Andrew Boyle
  • Editor: John Maloney
  • Post-Production House: ODD
  • Color: Rare Medium
  • Colorist: Ayumi Ashley
  • Music House: Howling Music
  • Composer: David Grow and Ryan Claus
  • Music Producer: Rachael LaCava
  • Audio Mix: Sound Lounge
  • Audio Mixer: Pete Crimi
  • Audio Producer: Matt Smith

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