Plop Plop, Fizz Fizz: The Fabulous History of the Ad Jingle

From State Farm “Like a Good Neighbor” to Kit Kat’s “Gimme a Break” ad jingles have a long, long history of getting stuck in your head and making marketing magic. Just perusing the songbook of the best jingles of all time, and even a few of the worst, some things remain constant—it’s something catchy, something you can hum, and something that makes you feel good.

What’s a Jingle?

By definition, a jingle is a short song or slogan that represents a brand as a way to quickly identify a product, service or company. The best of the best have a hook yet are unique and universally understood. When it comes to jingles, you’ll find humorous ones, sentimental ones, and even popular mainstream songs.

Let’s Go Way, Way Back.

If you think ad jingles have only been around since the advent of radio, think again. History shows us that the promotional ‘songs’ have been tools of the trade since the age of Shakespeare, maybe longer, maybe even during the Greek and Roman times. But if you took a trip to 16th century Elizabethan England you’d find roaming raconteurs on street corners, working for coins in a hat. When that gig didn’t bring home the bacon, these enterprising musicians cleverly pitched businesses to become a ‘sponsor’ to underwrite their expenses. Think butchers, bakers, bankers – businesses in the market for customers. With terms of compensation set, the musicians would craft songs promoting these businesses, and routinely play them during their acts.

Long Before Lucky Charms.

It didn’t take long for Madison Avenue to see the value of the marketing melody and during the 40s, 50s, and 60s jingles were wildly popular. However, the first ‘broadcast’ jingle created for General Mills was a little ditty for Wheaties cereal — a briefly stated, “the best breakfast food in the land” broadcast on Christmas Eve of 1926 in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market. As sales of Wheaties spiked only in that market, General Mills knew it was a hit, and launched it nationally. Posthaste! The footnote here is not that sales grew nationally, rather that the jingle established the “Wheaties” brand nationwide. For the past 100 years, the most effective and memorable advertising campaigns have been most often a jingle. Ba Dum Dum Dum.

Can We Teach the World to Sing?

Stalwarts like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola have long respected and relied on the power of the jingle. But so have local small businesses and underdogs. To make a popular and iconic jingle, there’s no strict science, but there are some characteristics. Let’s take a commercial break from this blog to deconstruct the magic behind the music.

Unforgettable. Is it catchy and infectious?
Will it be fondly remembered beyond your generation?
Beyond the box. Is it original and offbeat?

From hot dogs to diapers, jingles have been here for a long time, and one would be wise to keep them in heavy rotation.

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