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14 April 2022

what killed the ad jingle?.

The Slow Rise and Quick Death of the Jingle

Ever had a jingle stuck in your head? They're catchy, powerful, and, well, persistent. The McDonald's "Ba-da-ba-ba-baaa... I'm lovin' it" brings you back to the sweet innocence of playtime and kiddies meals, but now the jingle has mostly become a relic of a simpler time. So, what killed the jingle?

The History of the Jingle

Defined as "a memorable short tune with a lyric broadcast used in radio and television commercials intended to convey an advertising slogan," the ad jingle was once the golden age of advertising. Find the perfectly singable, memorable earworm, and your brand was the next best thing in your market.

The jingle reigned supreme in television ads from the 1950s to the 1970s. However, it first appeared on radio during the late 1920s to get around the strict industry regulations that prohibited direct advertising of products. With a catchy jingle, advertisers could mention a product name without explicitly pitching a product during a broadcast. Pretty clever (and sneaky), right?

America's first radio jingle aired for the breakfast of champions, Wheaties, in 1926. Wheaties became the most popular cereal in the country almost overnight, catapulting the brand into a household name. Advertising is about following trends or setting them, and brands instantly jumped onto this new trend.

The Golden Age of Advertising

In the 1950s and 1960s, jingles seamlessly transitioned from radio to television. By the post-war 50s, every brand that wanted to be a 'somebody' had a jingle for whatever product or service they were offering. However, the trend was so prevalent that the market was flooded. Jingles lost their effectiveness, and by the 1960s, it was no longer cool to sing about how cool your product was.

What became the new cool was to commission promotional music that sounded like a pop hit. Flash forward to the 1970s, and "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" was a jingle impersonating as a pop song, rising to the top of the charts in 1971. This new trend saw the demise of the jingle as we knew it and the infamous marriage of pop music and advertising.

The Jingle Marries Pop Music

During the 1980s, advertisers quickly realised that pop music was the key to consumers' hearts and wallets. This new breed of jingle skyrocketed, and everything from classic Motown hits to breakout stars were strategically integrated into the advertising budgets of the world's biggest brands.

Jingles weren't dead yet, but they weren't ageing well, and the end was likely near.

But if we had to blame – or thank – someone for the death of the jingle, Michael Jackson would be a good suspect. His 1984 Pepsi campaign pioneered the complete merging of pop fame and product promotion, with Jackson adapting the chorus of his hit single "Billie Jean" into what was then the most well-known jingle.

The Slow Rise and Quick Death of the Brand Jingle

This trend continued throughout the 2000s, with artists like Tori Kelley and Leslie Odom Jr. lending their voices and styles to the jingle. It worked simply; the brand got the boost of a catchy song to score its advertising, and the artist received additional revenue and exposure.

However, fast forward to 2016, and The Atlantic officially declared jingles dead in 2016. Its popularity had dwindled, the market was saturated, and consumers were bored and tired.

So, why this sudden sharp turn of events?

Consumers stopped consuming ads the same way, and with the arrival and instant rise of Ad Blockers, TikTok, and everything in between, jingles lost their place in advertising. Advertisers could no longer be sure that consumers would happily sit through (and endure) their ads. If we don't have to, we probably won't. The jingle isn't a valuable tool if no one is listening.

While there are still some brands that hold onto their iconic jingles, today, using a catchy, popular tune that your target market has likely heard elsewhere serves the advertising professional better. You hear your favourite Beyoncé song on the ad that annoyingly precedes your YouTube video, and there's a better chance you'll stick around for the rest of the ad. Unfortunately, the dwindling illustrious history of the ad jingle was diminished due to something as simple as that.

So, what killed the jingle? It owes its end to the shifting trends of advertising and the advertising industry and music business becoming more intertwined than ever. Some argue that the ad jingle is dead, never to return, while others believe a comeback is near, surely.
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