July is National Hot Dog Month and Fourth of July is upon us, so we thought we'd take a look back at America's second-most famous hot dog jingle.
Everybody knows Oscar Mayer's iconic jingle from 1963, but many also remember Armour Hot Dogs' "The Dog Kids Love to Bite," which was released four years after Oscar Mayer's and blessed with its own amazing amount of staying power.
"The Dog Kids Love to Bite" was written for an Armour Hot Dogs TV campaign in 1967, when Armour was represented by Young & Rubicam, Chicago. The ad itself wasn't much to look at -- just a Pied Piper-esque character leading a bunch of hot dog-munching children on a journey through a park. But the song itself was a hit. Armour credited the jingle with "substantially increasing sales" in a 1969 issue of Ad Age, and kept the original ad on the air for three consecutive years. Even after Armour was acquired by Greyhound in 1970, the song remained a fixture on radio and in TV campaigns throughout the decade, airing during everything from Sanford and Son to Saturday morning cartoons.
The jingle itself was written by Clay Warnick, a veteran musical director, arranger and composer who won four CLIOs for assorted spots he worked on for Y&R during the '60s and '70s.
Before getting into advertising, Mr. Warnick, who died in 1995, had enjoyed a long career writing and arranging music for theater and TV. He'd served as a vocal arranger for Broadway giants like Neil Simon and Rodgers and Hart, written a revue called "Tickets, Please!" and worked for a long time on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, serving as its musical director .
Thanks to those line items on his resume, Mr. Warnick probably didn't get too much pushback or direction from the folks at Y&R.
"It was a really different era from today," explained Professor Timothy Taylor, an ethnomusicologist at UCLA and the author of "The Sounds of Capitalism," a book about music in advertising. "It used to be that a good musician's judgment was trusted. If you had classical training, those skills could stand you in good stead."
Unlike most jingle or music producers today, Mr. Warnick probably got to take his time getting the song exactly right.
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"Musicians had much more time to do what they did," Mr. Taylor continued. "Campaigns could take months or even years. Billy Davis took about a year to do 'Buy the World a Coke.'
"Today," Mr. Taylor said, "a composer gets a call at 3 o'clock and hears he needs to come up with a song by tomorrow."
"The Dog Kids Love to Bite" didn't win any awards in 1967, but over time it acquired a reputation as one of the defining jingles of its era. It was included in "Great Songs of Madison Avenue," a compilation of advertising jingles released in 1976. American Music Concepts, a jingle firm that's been in business for over 25 years, recently ranked "The Dog Kids Love to Bite" as the fifth-best advertising jingle of all time.
"It's iconic," said American Music Concepts founder Jim Reilly. "It was originally like a march, although the jingle morphed many times over the years."
Mr. Reilly said he thought producers could get away with changing the sound of "The Dog Kids Love to Bite" because its tag line was so strong.
"Once you come up with a clever phrase that America loves, stick to it," Reilly said.
But perhaps the surest sign that "The Dog" found a home in the American popular consciousness came in 1994, when the jingle appeared in its entirety on an episode of "The Simpsons." After Bart and Lisa do a song and dance routine to the jingle in the episode "Lady Bouvier's Lover," Lisa wonders aloud whether her family knows any songs besides TV commercials.
They certainly knew all the most popular ones.
There's no telling how much longer hot dogs will remain an iconic American food. Every year, we eat fewer of them, and it's tough to say what could turn that trend around. Maybe another jingle could do the trick.