Madison Avenue fatcats: Whither the jingle?
If you’re in your 30s or older, those eight words can bring tears to your eyes. (And make you want to hug somebody. And give you a powerful craving for corn syrup and carbonated water.)
If you’re younger…
There’s a chance those eight words remind you of a pretty lame Coke commercial.
Watching the big show Sunday night — “Glee,” of course — I was struck by two commercials that resurrected powerful jingles from the ’50s and ’70s:
The first was that Coke commercial — a bunch of NASCAR drivers singing “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” during a big race. (To what end? I don’t think it matters. This ad’s only purpose is to clumsily push two buttons, “NASCAR” and “nostalgia.”)
The second ad was for Chevy — the “Glee” kids, dressed in white, belting out “See the USA in your Chevrolet.” (This one worked a little better for me.
Reminding the viewer that Chevy was once a stylish, spirited brand. Once.)
Instead of making me feel warm and fuzzy and nostalgic about Coke and Chevy, what these ads really did was make me nostalgic for those old commercials. For an entire genre of advertising that’s basically dead…
The, “My bologna has a first name.”
For most of the last century, music dominated advertising. Every big brand had its own song or signature. (Its own song, not some indie song cut to 15 seconds, then looped.)
I’m sure that popularity is the main reason jingles went away. In advertising, you’re always trying to break away from the pack. In the ’80s and ’90s and whatever we’re calling the last 10 years — jingles seemed old world. You wouldn’t have Ellen Pompeo do an “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV” ad — unless you were being ironic — and you wouldn’t have a jingle. It would be hokey. Uncool.
Well, I for one, am bored with cool. (Future column: Irony — enough already.)
The jingle is far too powerful a tool to stay out of fashion this long. It’s not just advertising — it’s music.
When I was a kid — a dangerous way to start a sentence, I know — we didn’t differentiate between real music and jingles. When we were singing our favorite songs in the car, the Miller High Life song always made the cut.
And the Lowenbrau song. And Hamm’s…
Okay, as a parent, maybe I’m glad that jingles are on the wane. Music gets into your brain and your heart like nothing else. Sometimes I feel like a sleeper agent for these brands.
Me: “Our kids don’t need to drink pop. It’s liquid diabetes, and furthermore – I’d like to buy the world a home, and furnish it with love – Oh, honey, let’s have Coke with dinner. In the glass bottles. It’s family night. And this is America.”
I have disturbing emotional attachments to beer, to pop, sugary cereals, depilatories, railroads…
And my mom passed her favorite jingles down to me. So I can also sing commercials — like “See the USA in your Chevrolet” — that were on television 20 years before I was born.
As a parent, yes, I’m glad that my kids don’t know the Big Mac song. McDonald’s is pervasive and powerful enough in our lives.
But as someone who loves advertising, I long for new jingles.
I don’t want Coca-Cola to flog all the nostalgia out my childhood favorites. And I don’t want to see the “Glee” kids wink at Dinah Shore.
I want something new to sing in the car.
A new reason to connect to brands I’m already inexplicably attached to.
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