From roughly the seventies to the nineties, it felt like nearly every commercial was a full-sing jingle. And when I say full-sing, I’m referring to a commercial that is entirely sung, as opposed to just singing the brand name and maybe a slogan. Those never really went away, especially in certain industries like insurance. But it’s been a long time since the majority of commercials were entire songs. Some of us might remember this one.
By about the turn of the millennium the full-sing jingle was out of fashion. It’s not clear exactly when or why this happened, but one turning point may have been when Juicy Fruit essentially killed their own jingle.
What’s interesting about these trends is they were simply that; trends. Quite often things go in and out of fashion, not because they are any more or less useful or effective, but because that’s simply the way things went.
Today we’re very much in a golden age of audio. One of the many things that make this age so golden is data. There’s a great book by David Ogilvy called Ogilvy on Advertising. It was originally published in 1983. As you can imagine, some of the insights are still relevant, and others are not. He doesn’t say much about audio, but he did say
“In some developing countries radio still reaches more people than television. Yet even there, nobody really knows what kind of commercials make the cash register ring. Isn’t it time somebody tried to find out?”
Well somebody finally did. In the digital age, we have more clarity on what works and what doesn’t than ever before. There are agencies out there dedicated to building best practices for ad efficacy through research. For example, SoundOut has discovered longer sonic signatures are more effective than shorter ones, and sonic logos that include the brand name are twice as effective at cementing brand association than those that do not. This is where the trends have been going against the data. These days we’re all about streamlining. This is often effective visually, but sound is its own distinct mode with its own unique qualities. In the last few years, we’ve seen how sonic brevity can often lead to a lack of distinction. A couple of blogs ago we noted how Disney+ and Nintendo Switch have nearly identical logos.
You may be thinking that this isn’t a big deal. After all, it’s not like they’re direct competitors. But last year both YouTube and TikTok developed sonic logos, and the results were eerily similar.
Full disclosure: I’ve often dissuaded my clients from producing full-sing jingles. When you’re trying to build a thirty-second song about a brand, you often find yourself really reaching. Lyrics often become generic, cheesy, and meaningless. But when you find yourself in a domain like YouTube where the ads are much shorter, the full-sing jingle makes a heck of a lot more sense. Not only are you forced to keep things concise, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that can set the emotional tone of a brand faster than branded music. Even voiceovers have a hard time keeping up with the pace. It’s very hard to make a brand sonically distinctive and memorable in five to fifteen seconds using just a voice.
In recent months, there have been a number of full-sings coming out of the woodwork, and some of them are quite good. I’m a big fan of Tic Tac’s more recent offering.
And Burger King’s jingle is surprisingly fun, while not going too far off-point.
And of course this shorter format full-sing jingle also jibes with research. Here’s an excerpt from This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin. Here he’s talking about music getting stuck in people’s heads.
“Surveys have revealed that it is rarely an entire song that gets stuck, but rather a piece of the song that is typically less than equal in duration to the capacity of auditory short-term memory; about 15 to 30 seconds. Simple songs and commercial jingles seem to get stuck more often than complex pieces of music.”
As I said, we’re in the midst of a golden age of sound. Radio is still going strong (despite some of the challenges we explored in the previous blog), social media is greatly driven by sound and music thanks to TikTok, the popularity of podcasts, audio books, and voice interface continue to rise, and of course sound maintains a deep relationship with virtually all other media.
Will the full-sing jingle experience a renaissance? It’s hard to say for sure at this point. But if it were to happen, there has never been a better time than now.
Update and Bonus Jingle (Sept 2023)
Meow Mix just brought back meow, meow, meow…