Music and Jingles

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The full-fledged singing commercial has been traced to shortly before World War II when disc jockeys aired customized musical commercials between records. Many early spots were based on popular folk songs, such as a Camel jingle sung to the tune of "Eatin' Goober Peas":

Rich, rich, mild, mild, Camel cigarettes.
Rich, rich, rich with flavor, Camel cigarettes.

Likewise, an early Pabst Blue Ribbon beer jingle was sung to the tune of "Ten Little Indians":

What'll you have? Pabst Blue Ribbon.
What'll you have? Pabst Blue Ribbon.
What'll you have? Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Just as the Camel jingle emphasized product benefits, so did a 1937 Wheaties spot aired on "Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy." It was not based on a folk tune; instead, a live, on-air male quartet sang:

Have you tried Wheaties? They're whole wheat with all of the bran.
So just try Wheaties. For wheat is the best food of man.
They're crispy, they're crunchy the whole year through.
Jack Armstrong never tires of Wheaties and never will you.

Perhaps the most famous early jingle campaign was that of Pepsi-Cola Co. In 1939, the marketer was looking for a major ad agency. Among the contenders was Lord & Thomas, which commissioned songwriters Alan Kent and Austin Croom Johnson to develop a musical theme to be used on radio. In July 1939, Messrs. Johnson and Kent created words that soon became famous:

Pepsi-Cola hits the spot,
Two full glasses, that's a lot.
Twice as much for a nickel too.
Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you.

Walter Mack, president of Pepsi, liked the jingle but passed over L&T and instead hired Newell-Emmett Co. According to a 1955 account in Advertising Age, however, he kept the L&T jingle. It broke in September 1939 on New York's WOR between news bulletins of Hitler's invasion of Poland. Soon everybody was humming it.

By the time TV arrived, the singing commercial, or jingle, was near extinction. That medium revived it, however, and gave it a new voice that still continues.

Irritating composers

In spring 1957 Roy Gilbert, who had written the 1948 Academy Award-winning song "Zip-a-de-doo-dah" and other hits, sued Hills Bros. Coffee, agency N.W. Ayer & Sons, music publisher George Simon and others, claiming he had been "irreparably and irrevocably harmed" by the use of the "Muskrat Ramble" (to which he had contributed the lyrics) without his consent in radio and TV spots.

Mr. Gilbert also claimed that he application of his music to an advertising message damaged his reputation as a musician and songwriter by "reducing him in the eyes of the music profession and public to the level of a jingle writer."

The Beatles were equally irate over the commercial use of their early hits, including "Revolution" (used by Nike in 1987), "Day Tripper" (Volkswagen's Beetle, 1998) and "Getting Better" (Philips TV, 2000), but were powerless to prevent advertisers from co-opting their music because the singer Michael Jackson, with Sony Music, had acquired the rights to the songs.

Some artists, however, willingly sell the rights to their music, as the Rolling Stones did in 1995 when they accepted $8 million from Microsoft for the rights to "Start It Up," which Microsoft used in its introductory effort for Windows 1995. Other artists who have licensed their hit songs include the Beach Boys, who sold the rights to their 1960s hit "California Girls" to Clairol for its Herbal Essence shampoo in 1976, and Carly Simon, whose "Anticipation" became part of a long-running campaign for Heinz ketchup.

There is always a risk when an advertiser rewrites the lyrics to someone's favorite tune, but one successful adaptation was the 1999 campaign by Mercedes-Benz using Janis Joplin's late 1960s song about the car (including the lyrics, "Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz?").

The list of pop tunes that have been used as jingles is a long one. One particular song, "Me Gotta Have You," recorded by 1950s pop singer Julius LaRosa, mentioned so many names (Burma Shave, Adler shoes, Toni home permanents, Halo shampoo, Swift bologna, and Smith Bros. cough drops), however, that it offended WNEW owner-manager Richard D. Buckley, who decided to ban such songs from his station.

Some jingles even became hit songs. Among the more recognizable ones are Chock Full O' Nuts' "Heavenly Feeling," "Chevrolet Mambo," "A Western Jingle for Nescafe" Rainier Brewing Co.'s "Rainier Waltz," the "Mission Bell" wine song and the classic "Chiquita Banana" song. Mid-1960s jingles that became instant hits included Pepsi-Cola's "Music to Watch Girls By" and "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" by the Seekers.

Your hit parade of jingles

Some artists seem to have a natural ability to create jingles that become hits. Roger Nichols has written catchy tunes that became instant favorites. "We've Only Just Begun," with lyrics by Paul Williams, was originally commissioned in 1969 by the ad agency Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn for its San Francisco-based client Crocker National Bank. A year later the song topped the charts when recorded by the Carpenters.

The same thing happened to the 1971 Coca-Cola jingle "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke," which later become the chart topper "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." Unlike most jingle writers who sell their music for a flat fee, Mr. Nichols, along with Mr. Williams and A&M Records held the publishing and recording rights, while Crocker Bank retained the advertising rights, allowing it to reuse the jingle in future campaigns.

For J. Walter Thompson Co.'s Eastman Kodak Co. account, Mr. Nichols wrote "Times of Your Life," with lyrics by Bill Lane for a TV spot, featuring singer Paul Anka, with ground-breaking, two-minute radio spots sung by Peggy Lee, Barry Manilow, Anne Murray and other artists. Mr. Anka also recorded it for national distribution and it became a top 10 song, greatly increasing Kodak's exposure at no additional cost to the company.

Another prolific jingle/songwriter is Barry Manilow, whose unforgettable jingle hits have included "You Deserve a Break Today" (McDonald's), "We're the Pepsi People Feelin' Free" (Pepsi-Cola), "Most Original Soft Drink" (Dr Pepper), "Get a Bucket of Chicken" (Kentucky Fried Chicken) and "Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Is There" (State Farm Insurance).

The first Chiquita Banana jingle (1944) represents an early attempt to infuse an exotic element into the American commercial jingle. Written by Len MacKenzie (music) and Garth Montgomery (lyrics) in what the sheet music described as a "calypso rhythm," it was an integral part of a campaign to teach consumers how to properly store and ripen bananas:

I'm Chiquita Banana, and I've come to say
Bananas have to ripen in a certain way.
When they are fleck'd with brown and have a golden hue,
Bananas taste the best, and are the best for you.
You can put them in a salad.
You can put them in a pie-aye.
Any way you want to eat them
It's impossible to beat them.
But bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator.
So you should never put bananas
In the refrigerator.
No, no, no, no!

Over the years the jingle appeared in several different versions.

Finding value in oldies

To reach a specific age group, many advertisers in the 1990s seized upon classic rock hits, such as Sunkist's use of the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations," Nike's use of the Beatles's "Revolution" and Chevrolet's adaptation of Bob Seger's "Like a Rock."

Other advertisers have reached back even further in time, sometimes choosing music that predates the target audience and looking to a time when life was simpler and more enjoyable.

One advertiser has managed to use retro music successfully to reach a most unlikely audience: 75 million teenagers. Gap, has been able to appeal to this traditionally hard-to-reach group by depicting "cool" people their age wearing Gap clothes and dancing to music of vastly different genres. Moving to Madonna's mid-1980s song "Dress You Up," they wore Gap vests, not three-piece-business suits. Teenagers across America sported Gap vests as a direct result of the spot.

In the mid-1990s, advertisers began to use obscure songs and little-known groups to sound fresh and original. In 1998, when Gap featured khaki-clad models jitterbugging to 1950s trumpeter/bandleader Louis Prima's "Jump, Jive an' Wail," record sales of a group that had recently covered the song (the Brian Setzer Orchestra) increased dramatically. Likewise, when Mirage Resorts Bellagio Casino adopted Andrea Bocelli's version of "Con Te PartirĀ¢" by Quarrantotta, record sales doubled and tripled in some areas.

For years, advertisers also have integrated sound effects to help their jingles get noticed. During the 1950s, Rinso detergent used the whistle of a bobwhite, which matched the rhythm of its slogan ("Rinso white, Rinso bright"). Also from the 1950s: "Use Ajax (BOOM, BOOM) the foaming cleanser" and "Winston tastes good like a (CLAP, CLAP) cigarette should." Other memorable examples include the "Snap! Crackle! Pop!" of Rice Krispies (1960s); the trolley bell of "Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat" (1970s); and the croaking of the Budweiser frogs (1990s).

Ownership issues

Jingles and music for commercials are either commissioned or produced as a work for hire. Music directly commissioned by an advertiser through its agency remains the property of the advertiser and can be used indefinitely and in any manner, subject to specific accommodations to the composers and/or performers that may be spelled out in special contract terms. In many cases the copyright may be jointly held.

In commissioning a composer of noted reputation such as Stephen Sondheim or Marvin Hamlish to write a commercial jingle, the advertiser may have to offer special concessions on copyright and royalty issues, given the composer's prestige and reputation.

In the great majority of cases, however, the music is bought from the writer on a work-for-hire basis, usually from a "music house," that is an outside supplier specializing in the writing and production of advertising music. Such companies usually maintain a staff of writers and arrangers but may subcontract to fulfill specialized needs.

In the case of widely known pre-existing music and songs, a use license must be negotiated with the copyright holder, which would be the publisher, the record company, and often, but not always, the composer or composers. Songwriters typically sell their work outright to a publisher or record company for a lump sum up front, which is considered an advance on royalties. Not until that advance has been recouped by the publisher does the composer receive additional money.

Only the most successful songwriters profit from an ad license; in most cases, the composer of a routine rock hit would not even be able to veto its use as a jingle. It would be licensed at the discretion of the publisher.

The license would specify the details of the rights granted: the composition, the product, the type of use (radio, in-store, TV, premium offer, etc.), synchronization rights for video and film, the territory of use (local, regional, national), the media, time period of use (often with options for renewal), specific dates in some cases, and perhaps the number of repeat performances permitted.

The licensor of a pop hit, depending on its value to the licensee, can assert contractual control over performers, arrangements, session producer and even the studio. Most licenses are granted for the length of a campaign. When the advertiser wants not only a song but also an original performance of that song, additional licenses must be made with the performers.

In rare cases, a piece of music may become a long-term theme of identification. Phillip Morris Cos. used Ferde Grofe's "Grand Canyon Suite" for 30 years, for example, while for more than a decade United Airlines extended its use of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" from TV spots to the music played on the telephone as callers wait to make reservations.

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