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Jingles – What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

There was a time when nearly every product advertised had some sort of original music, a jingle, associated with it. That’s no longer the case, although a catchy song remains a very powerful advertising tool.

Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz

Commercial jingle writing in the mid-twentieth century was an industry within an industry. Many songwriters subsisted on advertising work, and some went on to be stars in theatre and popular music. Maybe most famous was Barry Manilow who gave us “Like a good neighbour, State Farm is there,” along with “I’m stuck on Band-Aid, ‘cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me” and many others.

By the time the Baby Boomer generation came of age, however, music composed expressly for advertising purposes began to be perceived as corny and dated. It’s been in gradual decline ever since.

Selling Out?

Decades ago, if a popular recording artist allowed their music to be used in advertising, it might be said of them that they were “selling out.” Jim Morrison was famously furious when the other members of The Doors considered licensing Light My Fire for a Buick Opel commercial in 1968. Of course, back in those days, musicians could actually make money from record sales.

Buying The World A Coke®️

There was a fascinating turning point in 1971 when Coca-Cola produced their iconic “Hilltop” TV commercial, then the most expensive ever made, featuring the song I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing. This advertisement resonated so well with audiences that it spawned two hit single versions of the song (with brand references removed) that each sold millions of copies. This was a jingle that felt like a pop record, and for the first time, the proverbial pop “sell-out” occurred in reverse.

Fast forward to 1984 when Michael Jackson voluntarily re-wrote Billie Jean for a Pepsi commercial. Sure, some artists like Neil Young were vocal in their disapproval, but it quickly became a standard move for mainstream pop acts.

Every Struggling Band’s Dream

In the twenty-first century, if an artist’s music is licensed for an ad, it’s now a sign that they’re breaking out rather than selling out. For an up-and-coming band these days, being featured in a commercial for a car or an Apple product is one of the best things that can happen in terms of earning potential, and it seems that the majority of today’s advertisements feature either current pop music or recycled classic rock.

Now Jingles Stand Out

Commercial jingles are still with us, and the ones that do make it into major ad campaigns tend to be very memorable. You don’t even need to hear lyrics; when you hear “ba-da-ba-ba-ba,” you immediately think of McDonalds (and Pharrell Williams gets paid). Admit it, those insurance commercials featuring Peyton Manning (“Nationwide is on your side”) were entertaining enough that people watch them on YouTube, and I’ll bet you a whole dollar that you know the 800 number for Empire Carpet.

Original Music for Audio, Video, Podcast Themes…

These examples represent a curious reversal in the advertising business. Because they’re comparatively rare, a catchy original musical hook may be more powerful than ever before to make a product or service unforgettable. Whether you want your own cool theme music for your podcast, radio commercial, YouTube video, or TV commercial, original music will help it stand out.

What does it cost?

Commissioned original music can be simple or elaborate; one voice and one guitar, or a big-shot producer and a room full of musicians. Making a commercially produced track can range from $3000 – $30,000. At Tenato we have many close connections to musical, recording and studio talent (our CEO is also a songwriter), so we can pull together lots of concepts, giving you options in style and sound.

No, it’s not the norm

Use of original jingles or theme music has gone full circle and become a novelty. Most companies use stock background music, just as they use stock photography. But that’s exactly why it’s a great idea; if you want your podcast, advertisement or video to stand out, well-written original music can take you from good to great.

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About the Author - Richard Erickson
A master of nit-picking and an artful user of words, Richard’s love of language began as a kid. He enjoyed reading (including reading the dictionary!), winning spelling competitions, and analyzing word usage. As senior editor and copywriter at Tenato, his 20+ years in information technology and the performing arts have enhanced both the technical and creative elements of his writing style.