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