David Ogilvy once said: "If you have nothing to say, sing it."
At the beginning of the year, jingles were said to be getting a reprise.
Twenty years later, many agencies still avoid jingles like the plague. But others see signs of the jingle's return -- at least in an ironic, post-modern sense.
Old Navy's Christmas ads showed carolers singing the praises of the brand in a retro style. Air Canada's brand-building campaign featured a Celine Dion pop song written by an ad agency executive. And McDonald's Corp. has proclaimed that its "I'm Lovin' It" jingle should be used in all its ads worldwide.
But, the following week The Boston Globe published an article in which Eric Korte, vice president and music director at the Saatchi & Saatchi, was quoted as saying "The jingle is dead."
Desperate for alternative promotional and revenue sources, the major record labels have quietly established marketing units that exist exclusively to reach out to potential advertising partners. Keith D'Arcy was hired by Sony/BMG in April to pitch recordings from the company's catalog and respond to the needs of ad agencies searching for music. He's one of 33 employees at Sony/BMG who work with advertisers.
"We're creative experts that are on call to the ad community," says D'Arcy. "Eric Korte [at Saatchi] can call me with a concept and within three hours I'll have a compilation of songs to upload for him. It used to be that only big songs got licensed, but now even the major labels are paying attention to the opportunity that's created by having a new band in a cool ad."
And yet, Darcy concedes, one of the key things that's been sacrificed in the glut of pop music licensing is the most basic of advertising goals: product branding. Familiar songs may evoke an emotional response -- targeting baby boomers with classic rock tunes has been especially popular in recent years, with Led Zeppelin's "Rock 'n' Roll" careening through Cadillac commercials and the Rolling Stones singing "Start Me Up" for Microsoft. But there's rarely an explicit association between the song and the product being pitched, and that can cut both ways.
Yet, this week, Australian ad folk claim the jingle is far from dead.
Matthew Melhuish, chief executive of BMF Advertising. While he acknowledges that the heyday of the jingle has passed and that today's sophisticated world of marketing demands more than just a simple riff, there are very tangible benefits to those marketers with an eye on the long term.
"When you buy that song it might be terrific for that period of time but you are never going to own it. Some of the more recent ads that used U2 or the Beatles were ones that we probably enjoyed a lot but I can't recall what they were advertising. A jingle will be forever linked to your brand. When someone is whistling a jingle, that brand will come to mind. Whereas when you are singing U2's Vertigo [used in an Apple iPod ad], there's more chance that you would be thinking about the singer rather than the car," hesays.
Copywriter Alan Morris: "The day you start reading a print ad under the shower instead of singing a song is the day I'll stop writing jingles."
Even with all the back and forth over the death of the jingle, there are some that still remain on our TVs, like the Oscar Mayer wiener jingle, created back in 1963 by Richard Trentlage for J. Walter Thompson in Chicago. It is the second longest running jingle after the one for Chiquita Bananas.
With all these different opinions flying just within a period of three weeks, it's hard to know what is really the fate for the poor old jingle.