When I started Hooke Audio 5 years ago, the term ASMR was being used by only a handful of YouTubers. If you told me then that a multi billion dollar beer company would be using sound to advertise in Super Bowl 53, I would have told you…yeah duh.
Sunday’s Michelob Ultra ASMR ad in the Super Bowl introduced audio to the world as not just a supplemental character, but the lead role.
What Is ASMR?
At Hooke Audio, we’ve been writing about ASMR since 2014. A lot of our customers use Hooke Verse because most ASMR content is made with a binaural microphone.
Binaural ASMR recordings are quickly becoming the gold standard for ASMRtists. The reason for it is clear for anyone who experiences that tingly ASMR sensation. You can actually feel the difference.
It all started a decade ago with a post to an online forum titled “Weird sensation feels good.” A 21-year-old writing under the handle “okaywhatever” was seeking info on a mysterious sensation that would hit at random-seeming moments ever since he was a kid — “while watching a puppet show….when a friend drew on the palm of my hand with markers…its like in my head and all over my body…I also like to trace my fingers along my skin because it feels good when experiencing the sensation…what is it??” The overwhelming response perfectly illustrates how the internet enables us to share, compare, codify, and better understand our deepest personal experiences, and thereby find common ground. That weird sensation now has a name we all know: ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. And the online community that sprang from okaywhatever’s post celebrated a major milestone a couple weeks ago, when the YouTube personality known as Gentle Whispering became the first “ASMRtist” to hit the one-million subscriber mark.
ASMR is another niche in the binaural aspect of sound. Like all of the people and videos mentioned above, it triggers that sense on the back of your neck and down your spine and can send you into a state of relaxation. It helps calm people down and even deal with anxiety, helping people focus on that feeling moving down their body and having their attention elsewhere. It doesn’t even have to be staged or practiced ASMR tricks, either. Sometimes, being placed in another spot helps others by itself. But ASMR is a pop culture phenomenon that is helping society articulate and define what ASMR and binaural are, how they can be used, and even how they can be helpful.
ASMR At The Super Bowl
Sunday’s Michelob Ultra ASMR ad in the Super Bowl introduced audio to the world as not just a supplemental character, but the lead role. For years I have worked hard to tell the World that sound matters, that the way we are using audio in storytelling, advertising and our home videos can and should be better. Brands and creators are starting to take note, now no longer limited by video quality, they are looking for new ways to standout with compelling content. In this case Michelob chose ASMR and it worked. Whether you love it or hate it, people are talking about it. Michelob started a massive conversation and if that isn’t a marketing win for brand we all know, I don’t know what is.
What Michelob Got Right and Wrong
WHISPERS. Some of the most popular ASMR content online involves whispers or soft talking from a female voice to invoke tingles. Zoe whispering in the rainforest was a perfect choice for the first mainstream ASMR video.
CONTRASTING AMPLITUDE. The very beginning of the Michelob ad is loud and noisy, which helps Zoe appearing in the silent rainforest all that more captivating. Think of how many car and food companies have used the visual equivalent of noise cutting to a more simple visual (silence) to emphasize the product they are selling. Every visual cue has a sonic equivalent and in this case Michelob used sound to achieve what visuals have been doing in advertising for decades.
THE MICROPHONE. Any one who knows ASMR knows that the most compelling ASMR content is created with a binaural microphone. Since feeling like you’re in the room with the ASMRtist is so crucial to experiencing tingles, a binaural microphone has the greatest chance of creating this effect. The setup that Zoe used was just a stereo microphone which creates sound to the left and right.
Where We Go From Here
Don’t be surprised if we see sound playing a more crucial role in storytelling. Don’t be surprised if we see creators both professional and consumer care more about capturing better sound. Now that we are watching massive brands and filmmakers use sound as a leading character, that factor will trickle down to consumers. The CD burner came after the CD, the cassette player came after the cassette, Napster after the .mp3. When people first saw the Super Bowl in HD, they said “I’d like to record in HD”. Every major advancement in media has brought us devices that make it as easy to consume the content as it is to create it. But it has always started with a massive company creating that revolutionary content for us to consume. Michelob’s ASMR Super Bowl Ad was a watershed moment for audio dominated storytelling, utilizing new technology to tell stories in a new way. This is how we have always advanced in our media formats, we are entering the next chapter.
If you’re into ASMR, you will love binaural audio. This is the audio that makes ASRM possible. Check out the links below to HEAR how audio is coming out from the shadows and in to the sonic spotlight:
From One Ear To Another,
Founder, Hooke Audio