Times China - Award Winning Music Composition By Syn

Jul 14, 2021

With sparkling city lights, brooding clouds and majestic high-rises jutting into the sky, you would be forgiven for thinking the opening 10-seconds of this campaign from Times China was about to take you on an urban rollercoaster through the city streets of a thrilling detective movie. The scene is set with a solo saxophonist on a rooftop, overlooking Shanghai’s magnificent skyline and you are instantly transfixed, invited on a journey into the lives of a cast of fascinating people. Brought to you by Shanghai based agency The Nine, with music by Syn, this profoundly human campaign shares a glimpse of other people’s lives, peering behind the curtain at the similarities and differences that bring people together.

The spirit of this campaign comes from Times China’s concept that dreams come true. The storyline invites individuals, from different backgrounds and circumstances, to dream big and watch their dreams become a reality. The narrative encourages these contrasting people and personalities to realise their own dreams, giving it a genre-spanning sense of diversity. In a campaign that features everything from singing goldfish and polar bears to Einstein in a bath, the significance of seemingly random imagery could risk being lost in translation, however, there is powerful symbolism in the metaphors featured in this spot. Hidden in the title of this campaign (万物所向) is a character in Chinese that sounds like the word for ‘Elephant’, an explanation of the mother and baby Elephants featured in the spot. This hidden metaphor helps tie the visuals together, whilst the original song composed by Syn tells a story of hope, positivity and longing.

In a campaign with visuals that speak louder than words, let’s look at the soundtrack to this charming campaign and how it helps tie together a compelling spot. Syn China (based in Beijing and Shanghai) was tasked with composing an original song, to be voiced by characters from the film, bringing a narrative to the imagery and helping to tell an inspiring story. In the process of bringing these contrasting voices to life, Syn worked with a number of vocalists, including a 9-year old girl and a famous Chinese session vocalist, bringing a true sense of diversity to the campaign. This collaboration, featuring the songwriting talent of Syn China producer, Zhenzhen Yan, and Syn Tokyo’s composer, Yuji Hagiwara, creates a soundtrack that feels seamlessly in keeping with the visual cues on screen.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this soundtrack was in the intro, ensuring that the audience engages with the story and embarks on the visual journey. Syn composer, Yuji Hagiwara, continues, “For me, the most important section is the intro. The intro is something you hear first and, regardless of how good the chorus is, if you can’t get the listeners attention in the intro, then they might not listen as far as the chorus”. Echoing the spirit of diversity in the campaign, a wide range of instrumentation was used in the project. For example, the opening Saxophone is complimented by additional synth-pad, acoustic guitar and piano, giving a depth to the sounds and composition. Further expanding on the creative process behind the project, Yuji gives us some more insight into the production process, as well as the intricacies of working in China; “ Working with clients in China can bring with it many more revisions than other countries. The schedule is also often super tight, and they do tend to have epic, grand visuals, which means they spend a lot of time on making a powerful movie. They can also change direction in the middle, so you have to adapt to that. It’s challenging and rewarding.”

Syn China is no stranger to challenging briefs, exacting timescales and creatively large-scale visuals. Since 2016, when Syn opened in Beijing, Syn China has been delivering internationally recognised work to a range of local Chinese and Global clients. This project for Times China is an example of the grandeur and cinematic scale found in Chinese advertising, and whether the requirement calls for an orchestra, a celebrity vocalist, a child singer or an international cellist, Syn China is able to engage creatively with the most challenging of projects. A testament to this came in the form of the 2020 Golden Lion Award for the Times China Campaign, with Syn’s work being recognised at this prestigious ceremony. Since then, Syn China has been fortunate to also be awarded two Clio Awards (for Music Marketing and Cinematography - Silver, 2021) , as well as being hired by The Nine to create the soundtrack for both the 2019 and 2020 campaigns.

As Times China celebrates the importance of our dreams, I am reminded of a ‘dream come true’ that occurred on July 11th 2021. Richard Branson - celebrated founder of Virgin Group - journeyed to the edges of space on one of the first successful commercial space voyages of his Virgin Galactic Passenger Rocket Plane. His words - spoken from 282,000 feet above sea level, echos the spirit of this campaign; “I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I'm an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.”