The lost art of jingle writing

You can’t turn on the TV now without hearing a popular song used in some kind of advertising. As more artists sell their catalogues, the buyers are licensing songs to various companies. It’s been only six months since Sting sold his catalogue and we’re already seeing commercials like this.

Before songs were used to sell stuff, ad agencies relied on jingle writers. Clever musicians were entrusted in coming up with catchy earworms that would imbed awareness of the product in the mind of consumers. Jingles could be as short as a second or two…

…to full songs.

But with the rise of the use of actual songs (or reasonable facsimiles), the art of jingle writing is disappearing. This article from University Libraries has an entire article on the subject (which I found here.)

Advertising jingles, or catchy and repetitive songs used to promote products on the radio, have permeated popular culture and influenced the consumer habits in American society for nearly a century. Most people over the age of 30 can recall all the words to certain jingles they heard growing up, a fact that illustrates the lasting power of short, catchy tunes. While the advertising jingle is an almost forgotten art form, having been replaced in commercials by adapted popular songs and generic background music, it has a fascinating history (Stanley 2016). A hybrid form between art and consumerism, between obnoxious repetitiveness and genius craft, the jingle created a connection between product and public that was revolutionary. Previous research on the psychology of consumer behavior indicates that “music used in marketing-related contexts is capable of evoking nonrandom affective and behavioral responses in consumers” (Bruner 1990).  But to create such simple but persuasive tunes is rife with challenges, and the skills and talents of the composers and performers who created classic advertising jingles cannot be understated.

The Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) collection of the Library of American Broadcasting is a treasure trove of jingle history. The RAB is a national radio advertising trade organization whose history dates back to 1950. To showcase radio’s potential during the rise of the television era, the RAB began collecting examples of ads from all over the country beginning in 1954. The following list of jingle composers and performers highlights some of the iconic ads in the collection, and demonstrates the timeless effectiveness of a catchy tune paired with memorable lyrics. 

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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