Blog & News

Whatever Happened to Commercial Jingles?

By Chris Henson, Creative Director, Access


People say the Great American Advertising Jingle is a thing of the past. And you know what? It’s true. You only need to hear the wretched warbling in the current Truvia® ads (Talk about your artificial sweetness…) once to know that the jingle is dead. Or at least, not doing the branding triathlons they used to.

Don’t believe me? Behold!

Now, take a classic jingle like “You’ll look better in a sweater washed in Woolite!” It seems pretty simple lyrically, but it’s actually very clever songwriting. Note the quick rhyme of “better” and “sweater” — both integral parts of the brand message. Then, hear the punch of the brand name at the end of the phrase and you’ve got a memorable brand. The tune itself is hardcore “60s Lounge,” the perfect setting for a far-out sweater.

The best jingles, like the iconic McDonald’s “Two all-beef patties…” ditty, worked like nefarious earworms embedding themselves in a consumer’s brain and lying dormant until, say, lunchtime. They were more than a campaign element. In the viewer’s mind, they became the sound the logo made. It’s hard to see the Dr. Pepper logo, for instance, without hearing the “I’m a Pepper” song echoing in your head. That’s because it’s a good danged jingle.

So what happened to jingles? Several things. TV commercials have become more cinematic over time and jingles just don’t feel natural in them. It’s the same reason why movie musicals are so rare these days. People spontaneously bursting into song just isn’t that believable.

And since the 90s, advertisers have favored using popular music, particularly classic rock, R&B and indie tunes, to connect a commercial’s visual images to its intended audience. Aiming for 40-somethings in a car ad? Use The Smiths “How Soon is Now.” Going for baby boomers? Try some Led Zeppelin. Thirty-year-olds are treated to Eminem and Beyonce, while kids in their twenties get Vampire Weekend.

Finally, advertisers have put their musical muscle behind so-called “sonic logos” — a short string of musical tones, and maybe a few words, at the close of a spot. Think of the Intel “bong-bong-bong-bong” or Yahoo’s yodeler. Or how people who sing “ba-da-da-da-dah” are “lovin’ it.”

Should jingles be left to die? I hope not. The ditties of my childhood are important memories — more important than the products themselves. But until we get past the stale aftertaste of Truvia’s “I love you sweetness,” we’ve got a long way to go.

Now for the fun part. See how effective these famous jingles are by filling in the blanks.

“What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs? And makes a slinkety sound?”

“I am stuck on _____________, ‘cause _______________ stuck on me.”

“I’d love to be an ______________________.”

“See the USA in your _____________________!”

“____________________, he’s almost for real. Just saddle him up with spurs on your heels.”


Topics: Advertising