My ambitions have always been relatively modest. Would I like to be lionized and taken seriously by writers who know something about writing? Sure, but I’m ok diverting myself with the odd flight of fancy and the occasional undirected foray into whimsy. As a younger biped, I had some thoughts about writing professionally, but, as I seem unable to create or sustain a narrative over three or four pages, I figured my chances of hitting pay dirt were slim.
I did think about going into advertising, not writing copy, but turning out the sorts of catchy jingles that had adhered in the midbrain over several decades. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to capture the sort of cortex scathing impact of the truly great jingles, but I thought I could probably come up with a few worth humming. After all, “Winston tastes good like a (bum bum) cigarette should” was not beyond the reach of the moderately creative.
Not so the Hall of Fame jingles:
It’s Ajax, the foaming cleanser, foams the dirt right down the drain (bass run of bubbling down the drain)
Call Roto Rooter, that’s the name, and (another bass run) away go troubles down the drain. Roto Rooter.
Brusha, brusha, brusha, with the new Ipana, with the brand new flavor, it’s dandy for your teeth.
Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is.
These four share a common and inescapable narrative thread; these are basically declarative sentences. Ajax foams the dirt, troubles go down the drain. Pretty easy to sort out the message.
Some were more daring, wandered into the fabulous, danced in the realm of imagination:
I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Weiner
That is what I truly wish to be
‘Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer weiner,
Everyone would be in love with me.
Everyone? Really? No matter. I bought it hook, line, and sinker. The way to love? Become cylindrical bologna. .
Some were more than simply instructive; they were demanding.
Gimme a break
Gimme a break
Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar.
Not much room for misunderstanding there. You want trouble? Go ahead. Don’t break off a piece of that Kit Kat bar. See what happens.
I’ll give a nod to Folgers as well, who also skipped the highfalutin description of slowly roasted beans hand picked on the greenest mountainsides in Colombia and simply told it as it was.
The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.
Simple. Declarative. No nonsense. No room for argument. Clarity counts as in this declaration attributed to Winston Churchill – “I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” Not all that melodic, but the reasoning is hard to escape.
There was a more lyrical and culturally specific coffee jingle when I was but a lad.
Chock full o’ Nuts is that heavenly coffee
Heavenly Coffee, heavenly coffee
Chock full o’ Nuts is that heavenly coffee
Better coffee Rockefeller’s money can’t buy.
Nelson Rockefeller sued to have the family’s name removed from the ad, a gesture I thought simply twerpy until I found that the issue had to do with Rockefeller investments in other coffee enterprises rather than with the protection of the family’s name. Great fun, though, to have great fortune pitted against a homely cup of coffee.
Today, however, the jingle has gone the way of Howard Johnson restaurants, transistor radios, rabbit ear antennas, and Kodak cameras. Some would say that the jingle persists, and as a fan of very local radio, I can attest to the number of Mom and Pop roofing companies that still trot out jingles with real staying power. But national ad campaigns? Pathetic.
The two most egregiously vapid both belong to the insurance industry.
Farmers’ has added a catch phrase – “Seen it. Covered it” – but their jingle, while declarative, is so primitive that even in the rendering of it, I am disheartened. The Farmers site presents this official rendering of the “lyrics”: We Are Farmers! Bum da-dum bum bum bum.
Seriously? Why even bother? I assume the massed choir is meant to be a band of earnest farmers, the grange glee club, farmers so moved by their profession of profession that they burst into song. How this translates to trust in the agency covering your car, boat, or home, I cannot tell, but this I know and know full well, this threadbare jingle does not move me to shift my account their way.
Liberty Mutual, perhaps? This is the company that cunningly poses actors in front of the Statue of Liberty, a ploy so far from subliminal that the clip serves only to suggest that Liberty Mutual seeks the dimmest of customers. In an attempt to further dumb down the campaign, they’ve hired a trained Emu “named” LiMu (LiMu the Emu, get it?) to team up with a mustached crime fighter (Doug) in a buddy cop pastiche in which the duo fight against the “crime” of paying too much for insurance.
Is Liberty Mutual saved by the edgy brilliance of their jingle? You be the judge.
Liberty! Liberty! Liberty! The last “Liberty” is divided, the emphasis on LIB … then ER…TY.
That’s it; not even a bum bum bum.
It may appear that the devolution of the jingle has reached its rock bottom with these two, but another insurance company reminds us that a good jingle can pack an entire narrative into a single statement.
Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
Both obscure and particular, evoking the entirely mythical but eminently comforting presence of a neighborly friend or friendly neighbor while maintaining an open-ended horizon. Where there? There at the point of impact? There in offices answering telephones? There in a consoling, hand-holding visit as the last leaping flames turn to embers?
Good neighbors, of course, would be “there” with casseroles, I guess, and all those sundries that live in the back of the cupboard – tinned sardines, canned artichoke hearts, packets of onion soup. Comforting, I suppose, but ah, the check? Neighborly kindness goes a long way at point of impact, but speedy settlement of claims depends on an entirely different sort of relationship.
Like Rockefeller, State Farm is there? Ooops, forgot.
Could I do better? We’ll see.
Recognizing that the printed word cannot carry a tune, I am forced to grab a recognizable tune in order to show the full range of my jingling. I’ve my client from the list below and a tune generally regarded as among the most familiar.
Ads appearing most frequently on television in 2018: Liberty Mutual (#1! Baby!), Lifelock Identity Theft Service, Gold Bond Skin Protection, Zantac 150, Maximum strength heartburn medication, Allegra D Allergy and Congestion, Coffee Mate Season Flavor – Pumpkin
Most recognizable tunes (other than Happy Birthday/Yankee Doodle): Spice Girls Wannabe, Elvis Presley Devil in Disguise, Survivor Eye of the Tiger, Roy Orbison Pretty Woman, Britney Spears Baby One More Time.
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want
So tell me what you want, what you really really want …
Pumpkin flavored Coffee Mate? Too easy.
Let’s get messy with a truly challenging product and tune.
TheGold Bond family of skin products is extensive, actually divided into two branches of products. The basic Gold Bond items, from the Cracked Skin and Fill and Protect to the Medicated Original Strength Body Powder are in one constellation while the Ultimate Collection containing specialized and more refined cosmetics, including Pedismooth, Radiance Renewal, and Neck and Chest Firming Complex, are in another.
So, mix and match, here goes:
Risin up, cracks on my feet
Need some fill, need medication
Smell the difference, now my world is complete
Pedi Smooth made me sure to survive
I got the thigh of a tiger, got the cream for this fight
Risin’ up to the spots that are darkening
And the neck and the chest grow more firm every night
With Gold Bond, there’s no scabs on this tiger.
Maybe some dreams are never meant to come true, some avenues better not walked. There are days when I just wish … I was an Oscar Meyer weiner.