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I can’t believe this product still exists.

This little jingle (with the final line, “Take Brioschi”) is my first recollection of an advertising jingle. It probably was from the mid-1950s. I’m not sure if it was from the radio or television, but I am guessing radio because I have no visual memory of an ad. Imagine my surprise when I Googled the brand and found it still existed, although I haven’t seen it in stores. You can order the stuff online. This jingle led me to recall the famous “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz.” I do remember taking Alka-Seltzer as a kid and not having relief at all, but a more upset stomach because of the aspirin in it.

Although there are jingles and slogans in advertising today, I don't believe they are as memorable as the ones from our younger years.

I remember a lot of fashion and beauty ads, and when I went to Google again, found an entire category for sexist ads. Most of us women could write a book, and many have been written, about the sexist ads of the 1950s and 1960s, so not much need to go there, except for a couple of nuggets I remember from one of my first jobs, in an advertising agency, in 1976.

When companies bought radio commercials, they could specify the time of day the ads would run. There was “morning drive time” and “evening drive time,” presumably when people were commuting in their cars, and “housewife time,” which was from about 10 AM to 3 PM. At a meeting of San Francisco Women in Advertising, a rare (for that time) woman owner of an ad agency recounted her struggles with a client in trying to make the messages more congruent with the changing roles of women. Despite her pleas, the men wanted to animate a tampon. ‘Nuff said.

Rather than list more jingles and slogans, I’d like to use my years in the industry to reflect on what’s changed. Although there are jingles and slogans in advertising today, I don’t believe they are as memorable as the ones from our younger years. This could be because most are not aimed at our demographic, and also because everything in advertising is shorter and faster. Commercials have gone from a minute to 15 seconds, to accommodate shrinking attention spans and inflated media costs. With internet ads targeted to you as an individual, there are fewer opportunities for jingles and slogans with general appeal, and less need for them.

In 1950s and 1960s, advertising had a major artistic component to it. People had to write, draw, photograph, design, and print, or in the case of radio and TV, narrate, act, and film. That’s what attracted me to the field. Today, advertising is largely data driven and quantitative, with research, analytics, and algorithms determining the messages, headlines, and even the colors used. Probably less “waste,” but fewer breakthrough ideas and memorable slogans.

In 1978 I left consumer advertising to work in business-to-business and scientific advertising and communications, which has been my field ever since. The contrast between then and now isn’t as great as the consumer world, because there are fewer slogans and no jingles to come up with. But every once in a while I miss the challenge of writing to fit a page, the rush of bicycle messengers delivering physical art boards, the smell of ink while checking proofs on the printing press, and the pride of holding a printed brochure in my hand–and those quaint jingles from childhood.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.


Characterizations: funny, moving, well written

Comments

  1. Well, straight from the horse’s mouth — this prompt is right up your alley, Mare! I bet you were as talented in your years in the consumer advertising industry as you are now in your chosen specialties. Advertising was wonderfully creative despite its bad rap…now, aside from Super Bowl ads, it’s pretty lame if not downright dreadful, leaving me sitting there shaking my head in disbelief: Who actually paid good money for this garbage?!? I’ve often thought I would have enjoyed the creative aspects of advertising…especially brainstorming ideas and graphic design. Thanks for a look behind the scenes, then and now!

    • Marian says:

      Thanks, Barb. As one of my colleagues remarked, “It used to be so much fun.” I feel bad for the younger folks because they clearly aren’t having a good time, and the results show it.

  2. This is a sweet take on your experiences in advertising Marian, and you made me feel the rush to the deadline and the satisfaction of holding the finished piece in your hand!

    When you mention color I remember when I first realized that fashion advertisers decide what colors will be “in” each season, and look as I might often I couldn’t find clothes in my colors. . For years it seemed beige was it – a color that looked great on blondes but not on me!

    • Marian says:

      I hear you, Dana. I am ok with beige but struggle when everything is black. It’s a relief to be more liberated from the trends now.

      • Yes indeed Marian!
        Actually black is a good color for me, way before it became a truism that all the women in New York wear nothing but black!

        (In fact it’s true, often at gatherings I look around and see women mostly in black – even once at a wedding the bridesmaids were in black!)

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    How great to have your insider’s view on this prompt, Marian. I always knew about “drive time”, I guess because I commuted to and from work for years, listening to the radio, but didn’t consider the housewife demographic in between. Animating a tampon! Good grief! Suzy’s story was a great compendium of old jingles. Having never been a smoker, the plethora of cigarette ads came rushing back to me. They were everywhere until they were banished from the airwaves. Good riddance.

    The years you describe, though definitely male-dominated (we all watched Mad Men) must have been gloriously creative to work in. Nothing like it now.

    • Marian says:

      While I don’t miss the cigarette ads or and sexism of Mad Men, I do miss the creativity, Betsy. I started just as the Mad Men era was ending, so there were inklings of greater diversity. It would have been really fun to have diverse creative people involved and not losing all the fun.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Thanks for sharing your insights as someone in the industry, Marian. I guess the world moves faster now. Not enough time for a jingle or ad that is longer than a few seconds these days. An in interesting take on the prompt.

  5. Suzy says:

    As soon as I saw your title, that jingle started running through my head. Although I must admit, I had no idea what Brioschi is or was, I could just sing the jingle. So maybe not the most effective advertising.

    As others have said, love your take on advertising from the inside. Thanks for this fascinating story!

  6. You brought some serious game and depth to a subject that was mostly treating as froth by other writers. I guess that’s in part because you were in the field, and knew the “story behind the story,” and had so many years to cogitate on it. Your last paragraph was especially vivid and powerful, giving me a vicarious sense of what your world was like.

    • Marian says:

      Thanks, Dale. I have many wacky and educational stories, such as riding around San Francisco to figure out where to place billboards. We have lost most of the hands-on aspects of the field, given that Google Earth can do that particular task, and computers make it easy to test just about any variable you want. More efficient, less fun.

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    Thanks for the insight into the advertising world, back in the day. I carry many advertising tunes in my head–e.g. “IV 21 444, brings a Michigan yellow cab right to your door.” People do definitely remember things better in song or poetry. Supposedly that is how the Mongols transmitted messages in oral tradition over great distances too.

  8. John Shutkin says:

    As others have noted, Marian, it is really terrific to have some real professional insight into this prompt. “Inside baseball,” as some would say. Most of us are simply the consumers, a/k/a the lambs waiting for slaughter; you actually knew how the game was played by the marketers. And it is fascinating, even though, as you note, a lot of it was grossly sexist or otherwise exploitative.

    Yet, despite your hard-eyed views of your prior profession, it is also nice to see, as in your last pragraph, the sense of satisfaction — dare I even call it nostalgia? — for what you used to do and the satisfaction of knowing that you had done it well. Particularly as a lawyer who was frequently ambivalent (at best) about both that profession and my role in it, I really resonate to your sharp analysis. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

    • Marian says:

      Thanks, John, it’s OK to call it nostalgia, especially when colleagues have validated the emotion. I have found less ambivalence in the scientific advertising world, where at least the products have a useful purpose. You are right to have scruples, though. Years ago I did “fire” a client because of the way they wanted to promote their business process software. They wanted to tout efficiency but, if one looked at the software itself, it was about laying off people in the most financially advantageous way possible. I just couldn’t contribute to something I felt was disingenuous, even if it might have been technically legal.

  9. Dave Ventre says:

    I too don’t think that commercial jingles are as memorable as they once were, but I never considered the fact that ads are all so short now. No room for a decent song!

  10. Great use of a jingle to launch into some interesting social analysis, Marian! I also remember those paste-up days, working with the layout folks to make everything fit. A remarkable skill that disappeared almost overnight in the early 90s. Zoom!

    • Marian says:

      Although it was more work in those days, Charles, the memory does make me smile. Somewhere I still have a pica ruler (probably most folks don’t even know what that is). And, I still know how to count type proportionately to fit headlines, as I had to do for my college newspaper. Then, as a professional writer, in the early days I could “write to layout” if need be–a really good skill to have when editing your own work. And my recent employers and clients wonder why I could so easily reduce copy to the required word count!

  11. Oh yes, Marian! all your recollections are familiar. I worked for about 15 years as writer/editor/curriculum designer with a ‘crack’ 4-person pubs department at a social studies curriculum outfit. We took all our work from design to out-of-house printer. We put out two monthly supplemental curriculum newsletters full of articles, photos, graphs, captions, the whole routine. During the time I was there we tranzished from pasteup layouts to all online stuff, including bringing a raw web site from “what do we need the Internet for?” all the way to discontinuing print versions of many, many pubs. I DO know of what you speak. And appreciate the upgrades, but what a wonderful set of skills came out of it!

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