Brusha Brusha Brusha by
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Thinking about advertising jingles of my youth, what first popped into my mind was two toothpaste commercials. “Brusha Brusha Brusha, new Ipana toothpaste” and “You’ll wonder where the yellow went When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.” I know I used Ipana toothpaste, because I vividly remember the tube with the oversized cap, which allowed you to store the tube vertically, standing on its cap. I don’t know whether I asked my mother to buy Ipana because I liked the jingle or whether it was actually a well-regarded toothpaste. On the other hand, I don’t have any memory of using Pepsodent, but I can certainly still sing the jingle.

Thinking about advertising jingles of my youth, what first popped into my mind was two toothpaste commercials.

Here are some other jingles that I remember fondly:

“Brylcream, a little dab’ll do ya, Brylcream, you’ll look so debonair …”

“Double your pleasure, double your fun” – it was always twins singing about Doublemint Gum. My husband, a twin, calls this “twinsploitation.”

“Mm mm good, mm mm good, that’s what Campbell’s Soup is, mm mm good.” (Not the most profound lyrics.)

“Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven, and Pillsbury says it best.”

A little later, in the ’60s, there was “Oh I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener, that is what I’d really like to be, Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, Everyone would be in love with me.” In the second verse, one boy says he’s glad he’s not an Oscar Mayer wiener because “there would soon be nothing left of me.”

With the exception of Campbell’s Soup (which I think was the only brand of canned soup in existence in the ’50s, so it had a corner on the market), I never bought or used any of the products that these jingles were selling, even though I knew – and still remember – all the words and melodies. So as a marketing tactic, these commercials didn’t work on me.

I don’t know what brand of laundry detergent my mother used, but I’m sure it would not have been Wisk. I vividly remember seeing the Wisk commercial while watching TV with my mother. We didn’t often watch together, so it must have been during the Ed Sullivan Show or some other family entertainment. In that commercial, an inspection of the husband’s shirt leads to a chant of “Ring around the collar” to the tune of Ring around a Rosie, while he gives his wife a disappointed look because of this laundry fail on her part. My mother, normally a calm person, would yell at the screen, “why don’t you tell him to wash his neck!”

Cigarette commercials were a constant on the airwaves until 1970, when they were banned from both radio and television. “Winston tastes good like a [clap clap] cigarette should” had a catchy tune, but ungrammatical lyrics that annoyed me, because it should have been “as a cigarette should.” My parents smoked Kent cigarettes, which advertised “You’ll feel better about smoking with the taste of Kent, Kent with the micronite filter.” Marlboro ads sang “You get a lot to like with a Marlboro, filter, flavor, flip-top box” or alternative lyrics (maybe later on) “filter, flavor, pack or box.”

My cigarette of choice didn’t have a jingle, it just had a slogan. “Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch,” and always showed someone with a black eye. This slogan, just spoken or written, not sung, was also annoyingly ungrammatical, like Winston. Of course it should be “We Tareyton smokers.” When I was in high school and started smoking cigarettes, trying to be one of the cool kids, I chose Tareyton as my brand, in spite of, not because of, the commercial. Most of the kids smoked Marlboros, but I thought Tareytons tasted better. Too bad, because I preferred the Marlboro jingle. (Don’t worry, I quit smoking in 1971.)

Then there were the jingles that were so good that they were turned into popular songs. Probably the most famous one is the Coca-Cola commercial “I’d like to teach the world to sing,” which became a hit for the New Seekers after they changed the line “I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company” to “I’d like to hold it in my arms and keep it company.” Pepsi-Cola also had one, a wordless tune played during their commercials that turned into “Music to Watch Girls By,” an instrumental hit for Al Hirt, and then, after words were written*, for Andy Williams. Finally, another memorable instrumental jingle, “No Matter What Shape Your Stomach’s In,” was written for Alka-Seltzer. The commercial showed numerous pictures of stomachs of different shapes and sizes, and began and ended with someone poking the same very fat man in the stomach. It became a hit for the T-Bones, probably their only hit song.

In recent years, I haven’t heard any original music in commercials. The ones I’ve seen that have any music at all use fragments of old songs. Since many of those songs are from the ’60s and ’70s, I assume they are trying to get baby boomers to buy their products. I always feel a twinge of disappointment when I see yet another artist selling a song for a commercial, but I can understand the desire to make some easy money from songs that are no longer being purchased anyway. And in fact, being used in commercials might be the best way to introduce a new generation to this music. Songs from our era used in commercials include Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” in a commercial for Volkswagen, Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” and the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” used by Mercedes, Elton John’s “Rocket Man” used by Samsung, and Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” used by Ameritrade. In all those cases, there is some connection between the song and the advertised product. In contrast, what does Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” have to do with a COPD medicine? Bizarre! Hearing snippets of these beloved songs certainly makes me notice the commercial, but it doesn’t make me buy any of the products being advertised. I wonder if market research shows that this increases sales, or if the goal is just to get people to pay attention to the commercial.

*Here are the words to “Music to Watch Girls By” and a video of Andy Williams singing it:

The boys watch the girls while the girls watch the boys who watch the girls go by / Eye to eye, they solemnly convene to make the scene
Which is the name of the game, watch a guy watch a dame on any street in town / Up and down and over and across, romance is boss

Guys talk girl talk, it happens everywhere
Eyes watch girls walk with tender lovin’ care

It’s keepin’ track of the fact watching them watching back
That makes the world go ’round
What’s that sound, each time you hear a loud collective sigh
They’re making music to watch girls by

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy

Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great cavalcade of iconic musical jingles, Suzy. I remember every one. The Pepsodent jingle really resonated; but I think my family used Squib tooth paste until my dentist had me switch to Crest, or something like that. Those jingles from our youth really stayed with us for a lifetime, it seems.

    I think you are right. Now all the advertisements seem to want to appeal using popular songs (for which they must have paid a fortune), but none makes me want to buy the product. They just create a mood, or get my attention (since, as you point out, the song is a favorite). I think we are past the point of being highly influenced by commercials.

    • Suzy says:

      Squib toothpaste, wow, I’ve never heard of that one. My family ended up with Crest as well, which is what I still use.

      We may be past the point of being influenced by commercials like these, but I have to admit that the targeted advertising on facebook has sometimes caused me to buy something I otherwise wouldn’t have. But no jingles are involved, I don’t even have my sound turned on.

  2. John Shutkin says:

    Great compendium and analysis, Suzy. Plus a good deal of overlap with my own memories and stories — which is the sincerest form of flattery, is it not?

    In particular, you will see my own discussion of the Coke jingle (as well as the Alka Seltzer one), but I had forgotten Pepsi’s equally catchy Andy Williams song. Conversely, the one jingle that did not ring a bell was your title one, “Brusha, Brusha, Brusha.” What I do remember well from Ipana, however, was its mascot, Bucky the Beaver. Even as a kid, though, I wondered why a toothpaste would have as a mascot a creature with enormous buck teeth. We always bought Crest or Colgate, in any event.

    Beyond just your own terrific story, this is a really fun prompt and I’m sure all of us on Retro will be humming these old jingles all week.

    • Suzy says:

      I’m surprised you don’t remember the Brusha song. If you ever saw the movie Grease, a character named Jan sings it along with the TV at the Pink Ladies’ sleepover. Now you’ll have to see the movie, right? Or you can just watch that scene on youtube. And of course a beaver is a good mascot for a toothpaste, with those big teeth that need brushing.

  3. Wow Suzy, as always your knowledge of songs and lyrics is encyclopedic!

    There are many commercials nowadays on TV that are entertaining but I often can’t say what product is being advertised! Maybe the message is subliminal or maybe this old Boomer’s noggin is a little foggy!

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Love your mother’s response to ring around the collar. She was right! I wonder how great all of those jingles ended up being in terms of product sales? Like you, while I enjoy snippets of songs I loved it makes me sad that the artists (or their estates) have sold out.

  5. Clearly the advertisers were doing their jobs well. When I saw your title I knew exactly what the brand was. Bucky was never a favorite, however. We used Pepsodent: it was a powder and made a huge mess. But it had a nice taste. And Oscar Mayer wieners: do you remember the subsequent bologna jingle: a kid singing “My baloney has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R, my baloney has a second name it’s M-A-Y-E-R. Oh, I love to eat it every day, and if you ask me why I’d say, ’cause Oscar Mayer has a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A. Classic.

    • Suzy says:

      I had no idea that Pepsodent was a powder! That’s pretty wild. Of course I remember that later jingle – thanks to Oscar Mayer, every kid of our generation knew how to spell bologna.

  6. Marian says:

    You’ve given a really wide array of the jingles and advertising we all knew, Suzy. This was really fun! My guess is that today’s commercials try to build what’s called “brand awareness,” and that the Facebook ad is geared toward selling you something. I can’t understand how much of the music is related to the brand or product either.

  7. Suzy, that Ipana commercial actually got to me…I definitely remember wanting to switch because of it, but alas, ours was a die-hard Colgate family. But wait…I do remember the Pepsodent tooth powder, it came in a little oval can, so we might have tried that for a while.

    I love that you were annoyed by the improper grammar in commercials. So Suzy! 😉

    Like you, I feel disappointed when I see artists stooping to commercial level…especially the lush Victoria’s Secret production with Bob Dylan. (Link in my comment to JS). Last person I would have expected to sell out. Well, except for Springsteen (Jeep)…but he did it so thoughtfully.

    I finished reading your story after 11 last night and decided to wait until the morning to comment, climbed into bed and immediately had an ear worm of …”‘cuz if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, everyone would take a bite of me.” Go figure.

    Super fun story!

    • Suzy says:

      I’m amazed to learn from you and Tom about the Pepsodent tooth powder. I definitely never knew about that! I can’t even imagine how that would work.

      Just watched the Bob Dylan/Victoria’s Secret commercial. I agree, very creepy. Jeep pulled Springsteen’s commercial after his DUI arrest, but I didn’t like it anyway, it was way too Christian for me, starting and ending with a chapel, and filled with crosses. And he didn’t even sing!

  8. Dave Ventre says:

    Our detergent was always “stronger than dirt!”

    I wonder if the lyrics to “Girl Watchers” were written later. They seem jammed into the melody. I think it works better as an instrumental.

    • Suzy says:

      The lyrics to “Music to Watch Girls By” (not to be confused with “I’m a Girl Watcher,” a totally different song) were written later, but to me they don’t seem jammed in at all. I think they are very clever, and fit perfectly. It reminds me of a Broadway show tune by someone like Sondheim. Btw, the lyricist, Tony Velona, was from Jersey City!

  9. Risa Nye says:

    Suzy, watching Andy Williams and the go-go girls was a hoot! Wondering if you’ve seen the French Dad Dancing commercial with “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone. I don’t know what exactly the ad is for (cell phone?), but it’s the best one I’ve seen in a long, long time. Thanks to the team for this suggestion. Lots of fun to write about these ads and tunes!

    • Suzy says:

      Yeah, those go-go dancers were pretty adorable. I just watched the French Dad Dancing commercial, thanks for telling me about it. Very sweet, and yes, it’s for a French cell phone company.

      This prompt is turning out to be one of our most popular ever! We just never know when we are brainstorming ideas which ones will hit the jackpot.

  10. Wow, Suzy, you pulled some of the most singable jingles from the vast archive of imprints filed in my memory banks. And I hadn’t realized that some pop songs followed a reverse pattern and modeled themselves after commercials. The coke commercial is the most pronounced example. You really put a great deal of thought and research into this ‘treatise,’ delivered in your inimitable and readable style!

  11. Between the two of us, we remembered the whole Ipana jingle. You recalled “Brusha brusha brusha,” which sounded completely foreign to me. But what I clearly recalled was “Bucky Beaver” with his big white teeth as the symbol for Ipana. Sure enough, when I went to google, they go together!

    This is the second time that the “I’d rather fight than switch” image has appeared in Retrospect in recent months: I used it as a campaign slogan against Mitch Daniels for student council Prez: “I’d rather Fink than switch.”

    • Suzy says:

      I remembered the character called Bucky Beaver, but not that commercial with him in a spaceship vanquishing the Decay Germ, so thanks for that link. As I just said to Charlie, I didn’t do any internet research, except on Andy Williams, so it was all from my memory.

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