Australian Navy uses disguised sound to recruit

(Courtesy Squeak E. Clean)

Global audio company Squeak E. Clean Studios teamed up with VMLY&R Australia and New Zealand to hide a secret image in sound to attract Navy intelligence recruits for highly skilled positions.

‘The Audio Ad You Can See’ is designed to connect a tech audience to Navy intelligence roles and targets the narrow field of intelligence professionals suited to work in the Navy.

The ad reaches these intelligence professionals on the “invisible battlefield” where they operate, and can be streamed here.

Squeak E. Clean Studios Head of Sound, Paul Le Couteur, worked carefully to reverse engineer the “world’s first recruitment message hidden in sound,” by producing audio from an image to be analyzed through a spectrogram, a tool that analyzes frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum.

To reveal the hidden message, the audio discovered by only the most clever must be processed in a spectrogram, which is used in sound production to repair background noise, crackle, hums and glitches. It’s also used by the Australian Navy to intercept, analyze and identify threats at sea. 

Watch below for a behind-the-scenes look into how the covert ad was made:

REELated: Wimbledon 100 campaign honors the greats

Le Couteur notes, “This idea really pushed my audio engineering brain to places it hasn’t gone before. Every audio signal produces an image in a spectrogram, but we found a way to reverse that process and produce audio from an image. Essentially, we were painting with sound.”

Creating the hidden image was a unique collaboration between audio production and design. While the audio needed to be crafted for an image, the image needed to be crafted for audio.

First, a designer created a poster then converted into audio signals using an image synthesizer, before the voice and further soundscape elements were added. Extensive use of additive EQ, subtractive EQ, compression and the micro-automation of volume ensured each sound had its own sonic space in the frequency spectrum.

James Wills, Creative Director, VMLY&R says, “Every element was tweaked with meticulous precision to make sure we struck a balance between clarity of the audio and clarity of the image. We were essentially manipulating the electromagnetic spectrum, which is exactly what some of the Navy’s intelligence personnel do every day.”


BRAND: Australian Navy

AGENCY: VMLY&R Australia and New Zealand

  • Chief Creative Officer: Paul Nagy
  • Executive Creative Director: Jake Barrow
  • Creative Director: James Wills
  • Creative Director: Robyn Bergmann
  • Designer: Simon Gray
  • Producer: Fiona Norman
  • Producer: Annie Thiele
  • Editor: Leigh Cooke
  • Account Director: Meaghan de Laurier
  • Account Manager: Madeleine Moorhead
  • Account Executive: Jess Osrin

MUSIC/SOUND DESIGN: Squeak E Clean Studios

  • Head of Sound: Paul Le Couteur
  • Executive Producer: Ceri Davies 

Follow us on our new Instagram Page!