Where Have All the Jingles Gone?

In Defense of the Commercial Jingle

commercial_jinglesThere was a time when advertisers packaged their marketing messages within the lyrics and melodies of songs written specifically for TV commercials. The songs came to be known as jingles because they were catchy, singable tunes. Today, commercial jingles have essentially disappeared from American TV advertising. Advertisers now are more sophisticated. The jingle is seen as a corny, throwback to a time when viewers would accept a sing-songy tune written about a product.

Modern Day Branding
These days TV advertisers seek to position their product within the “lifestyle” of their target market. The task is to create an ad campaign that reflects this lifestyle. Television commercials today often don’t even mention the product, you just see happy people using it, hopefully, dressed the way you do. The implication is; they use it – you should use it too.

If the target market is baby boomers, the commercials borrow heavily from pop tunes from the 1970s (Cadillac uses Led Zeppelin’s Rock ‘n Roll). If it’s a younger market, then the tune is borrowed from the 1990s or 2000s. Some new and relatively unknown bands have even been launched to greater popular acclaim because one of their songs was used in a TV commercial.

So yes, creating ads around lifestyle choices is more sophisticated. But does it sell the product? After all, that’s what these things are supposed to do. They’re supposed to sell.

The problem with making branding all about style is – everyone is basically branding the same one or two styles. How does a consumer differentiate between all of these similar messages? They all just blur together. Products are wrapped in the images and sounds of our shared popular culture. The ads are smart, hip and chic but in the end, they all blend into a reflection of a single modern lifestyle. Everything is the same. This is not what TV advertising should be.

We all hear famous songs grafted into ad campaigns, we may even like the commercial, but do we necessarily remember the product? Here is a list of pop songs used in TV advertising within the past 12 months (this article was originally published in our newsletter in 2005). Can you name the product?

Dust In the Wind by Kansas
Rufus Wainwright covering The Beatles’ song “Across the Universe.”
Live Richly by Spice Girls
100 Years by Five for Fighting
Vertigo by U2
One Way or Another by Blondie
Love Sick by Bob Dylan
Picture Book by the Kinks

Commercial jingles have been forgotten. They’re out of style. A decision has been made
by marketers that jingles are not the right way to reach the modern demographic.

Jingles are obviously not as cool, nor do they have the cache of a hit record, an Eminem track for instance, but advertising jingles actually sell the product for which they were created. Chances are better that a viewer will remember the product when it is presented through a jingle. “Remember the product” – that’s what an advertisement should do.

Remember these old commercial jingles?…

Rotorouter that’s the name
And away go troubles
Down the Drain

When you say Bud,
You’ve said a lot of things nobody else can say
When you say Bud,
You’ve said you care enough to only want the king of beers
When you say Budweiser,
You’ve said it all

If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the beer
Miller tastes too good to hurry through

Hershey, the great American chocolate bar…br>

My baloney has a first name
It’s O S C A R
My baloney has a second name
It’s M A Y E R
Oh, I love to eat it everyday
And if you ask me why I’ll say
Cause Oscar Mayer has a way
With B O L O G N A

If you’ve ever heard these jingles, you were, no doubt, humming the tunes as you were reading the text (you are also probably over 35 years old). Some of these commercial jingles are 30 years old and some of you still remember these products and their TV ads. That’s branding, isn’t it?

Vigilante Saves the Day…
Here in Brooklyn New York, there’s a local company, Vigilante Plumbing, that advertises on cable TV. Their TV commercial uses a jingle. It is a low-budget, corny – actually, it’s so bad, it makes you laugh – it’s a take-off on a Spaghetti-western style soundtrack. I’ve heard people sing this jingle while waiting in ATM bank lines, always to great snickering by others also waiting. When a Vigilante Plumbing truck drives by, I’ve heard pedestrians start singing the Vigilante jingle back at the truck as it passes, laughing as they sing.

But what great advertising this jingle has been! Ask anyone in Brooklyn, (population 2.5 million) about a plumber, – they’re going to tell you Vigilante Plumbing. Vigilante didn’t have to go license “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel. They used a low-budget, kitschy song and they are the top-of-mind plumbing outfit in a city of 2.5 million. Not bad.

Maybe there’s a meeting point between this example and the ultra-chic marketing we see every day. Maybe an advertising jingle can even be cool. Jingles have been off-the-radar for so long now, that perhaps the young creative at a Madison Avenue ad agency that comes up with a cool jingle
will actually appear to have a fresh idea.

Sergio Zyman was the chief marketing officer for the Coca-Cola Company in the 1980s. His book, The End of Marketing As We Know It, speaks to the disconnect affecting TV advertisers more concerned with building images than selling products.

Marketers who haven’t made the connection between creating images and selling products often don’t do a very good job at either of them. … But too many marketers pay too much attention to the people in their ad agencies who talk about production values, WOW concepts and winning awards and they don’t think enough about their objective and how the images they create are going to help or hurt them in achieving sales. They don’t really understand what goes into branding and positioning, or what branding and positioning need to do. So, the images they create are fuzzy, irrelevant, or boring.

Marketers are making a big mistake when they hide behind the concept of building images so that they won’t be held accountable for producing any results It’s pure baloney, or worse, to suggest that marketing isn’t about selling products and making money.

My all-time favorite commercial jingle is from my childhood and featured a character named Choo Choo Charlie. The product was Good and Plenty candy.

Once upon a time there was an engineer
Choo Choo Charlie was his name, we hear.
He had an engine and he sure had fun
He used Good & Plenty candy to make his train run.
Charlie says, “Love my Good & Plenty!”
Charlie says, “Really rings my bell!”
Charlie says, “Love my Good & Plenty!”
Don’t know any other candy that I love so well!

I still remember the commercial, the animation, the song, the product. I don’t remember anything about the commercials I saw last night.

Behind the Most Hated (and Best) Jingle of All Time

End of Marketing As We Know It

The End of Marketing As We Know It by Sergio Zyman

Remember the New Coke? A disaster, right? Or how about the commercial where “Mean” Joe Greene meets a little kid holding a bottle of Coke? A masterpiece, right? Wrong, on both counts. Sergio Zyman, who was the chief marketing officer at Coca-Cola, will tell you that while the New Coke nose-dived, it – and the subsequent reintroduction of Coke Classic – helped to reconnect people to the soft drink and revitalize a brand that was losing market share to Pepsi. And as for “Mean” Joe Greene, while people loved the ad, it wasn’t doing what good marketing should do: sell a product, which is what Zyman’s book, The End of Marketing As We Know It, is all about.

If you have a business and need to market your products in any way, then this book will make enlightened reading.


Who Killed the Jingle?How a Unique American Art Form Disappeared
By Steve Karmen

Did Madison Avenue get too sophisticated for its own good? Too cheap? Too sneaky? In its quest to combat the technology that allows the viewer to “zap” the commercials, “tune out,” or eliminate advertising, did the advertising world invent “integration” (putting the product into the programming) rather than make the commercials lovable, hummable units of entertainment themselves? Karmen explores the demise of the advertising music business and why the future of advertising is so precarious.

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