I’m a big fan of the commercial jingle as a method of advertising. I think jingles sell better than their much over-used alternative – the licensed hit song. Jingles are written directly for the ad and, to me, tend to create better campaigns.
Jingles from years past were slickly produced by top-notch studio musicians and professional jingle (commercial) writers. New York City was the capital of jingle production and for decades there was a lively industry (recording studios, the music union, writers, performers) devoted to turning out jingle recordings. That industry is almost completely gone now.
What’s replaced it is the solo singer-songwriter. Not a famous voice, but a young performer with a very individual sound. These commercials have a quirky, low-fi, indie, DIY feel. Some very smart ad executives have discovered that this type of soundtrack really sells.
There’s recently been a slew of commercials employing this approach. For instance, listen to this commercial for Truvia.
Here are the lyrics.
I loved you sweetness, but you’re not sweet you made my butt fat
You drove me insane, self-control down the drain
We’re over, I’m so done with that
I found a new love, a natural, true love, that comes from a little green leaf
Zero calories, guilt free no artificiality, my skinny jeans zipped in relief
Its name is Truvia, I had no idea, no more sprinkling my coffee with grief.
Now the singing of this commercial is pretty, let’s say… idiosyncratic. Some might say amateur, off-key, or just bad. But I think, if the commercial works, and it does to me, that the performance of the song adds a huge dimension to the spot. It’s actually the minimal melody and the phrasing of the lyrics that makes this so quirky. The singing is not really in sync with the guitar playing. It’s more like she’s talking or it’s stream-of-consciousness not really in rhythm.
The target audience for this commercial is younger women. It’s got a light, fun, innocent mood to it. It comes off as honest. There’s a playful sense of humor. That’s appealing. Capturing honesty in a TV ad is a hard thing to do.
Here’s another ad, this time from Bisquick.
We see a young mother preparing pancakes for her two children. The lyrics reflect the thoughts of the children.
There’s one thing I’ll eat, any time of day
Dawn till sunset, I’ll never walk away
Blueberry pancakes, so good
The jingle creates a happy, laid-back, Saturday-morning vibe.
Here’s a recent campaign for the Subaru Outback.
I’ve been looking and looking my whole life through
Trying to find my way back to you
Cause I love you, I do
Cause I love you, I do
In this ad, the husband loses the car and basically creates a situation where the couple is stuck in the desert. He’s meandering around with his keys. And in the background, the woman is singing “I love you I do” but in an ironic, semi-tolerant way. (she rolls her eyes).
This is marketing directly to women. I like the ads but I’m not the target of these products. The Subaru Outback ad is targeting young couples slanting the ad towards the mom or wife.
The appeal of these jingles is their innocence and honesty. Having a solo singer, accompanied only with a guitar, singing in an individual style is what gives these spots their charm. It’s the exact opposite of what jingle advertising used to be and it comes off as fresh and youthful.
It’s hard for an ad or a corporation to capture innocence. One way to do that is to use original music from an unknown source. There is an anonymity to these jingles. We don’t recognize the voices, the production is minimal, some even sound tossed-off with no real effort. This low-fi approach adds to the overall effectiveness of the ads (It reminds me of films like Juno which came out of nowhere with unknown stars with a fresh new take on storytelling).
About the performers/writers
The Bisquick jingle is written and performed by Frances England She’s actually a kids music performer.
The Subaru Outback ad is by Miss Erika Davies
I couldn’t find the singer for this Truvia jingle (what is listed on YouTube is for an earlier commercial, not the one cited in this post).
If you have any comments or thoughts about this advertising trend, please post them as comments. How about this. How do you feel about ads that create a mood of innocence and honesty to sell? The purpose of any ad is to influence (some might say manipulate) behavior. These ads do that while pretending to be rather casual, even improvised. The tone masks the intention (or not?). What do your think