Noel Coward famously said that there is nothing so potent as cheap music and the recent Thinkbox campaign, produced by The Red Brick Road and designed to remind us of the effectiveness of TV advertising, revealed a profound strain of nostalgia for the jingles of our youth.
Those of a certain age will have fond memories of wondering where the yellow went (Pepsodent), of singing along to the arrival of the Milky Bar Kid, of discovering the bright one, the right one that was Martini. Could such affection bring about a jingle renaissance? Not that it has completely vanished from the airwaves, caught between the development of the sonic logo and the extensive use of existing pop, rock and MOR standards.
"There was a time, and perhaps this is still the case, when people were embarrassed by ads that were seen to be too populist and lowbrow," Lindsey Clay, the marketing director of Thinkbox, says. "These ads were not edgy and were judged to be unworthy of respect. Populist became a dirty word."
Mark Fiddes, executive creative director of Draftfcb London, agrees on the causes of the decline in jingle usage, causes that remain with us. "Jingles were perceived as neither arty nor trendy enough and London advertising in particular is prone to such considerations. The situation has not been helped by changes in the agency/client relationship. Clients change agencies so often these days that the continuity which is needed to support a jingle or an endline is no longer achieved. Jingles and endlines need long-term relationships to sustain them."
Jingles selected for the Thinkbox campaign included such classics as "I'm a secret lemonade drinker" (R Whites), "Just one Cornetto" (Wall's) and "Now hands that do dishes" (Fairy Liquid). Paradoxically, the Cornetto jingle also appeared among the top five worst ads with music, as revealed in a YouGov/The Co-operative survey conducted earlier this year. Other old favourites that the consumer loved to hate included the Shake 'n' Vac and Halifax's Howard warbling "Who gives you extra?"
Top of the hitlist was Sheilas' Wheels car insurance with the songstress trio extolling "bonzer car insurance deals". Lee Crawley, the brand manager for Sheilas' Wheels, is unrepentant. "The history of good advertising contains many examples of 'hummable' jingles and we are following in this great tradition," he says. "I believe that the jingle undoubtedly has a future. The new GoCompare advertisement is a case in point. It has massive recall from a catchy jingle after just a few weeks."
The contagious hummability of jingles can be a double-edged sword, as Clay points out. "Jingles have to strike a balance between their nostalgic appeal and the modernity which the consumer now expects," she says.
"Creative trends in advertising are cyclical and we're probably overdue a revival. Jingles can be used to very good effect as a way of infusing your brand with positive associations and then embedding it in people's long-term memory. They can help make the consumer like your ad and, given that likeability is the most accurate predictor of ad effectiveness, it should not be underestimated."
DO JINGLES HAVE A FUTURE?
The client: Lee Crawley, brand manager, Sheilas' Wheels
We chose this particular jingle because of its pure catchiness. It settles in the brain quickly and is difficult to shift once it's there. The lyrics say everything about the brand and, by wrapping them in such a catchy jingle, we ensure that people carry round our messages much more readily. It's impossible to sing the jingle without repeating the brand name. The jingle is fun, upbeat and sparky - qualities we work to associate with the brand. Women love the jingle for all the reasons we love it. We have also found that they run their own private showreel of the ads when they start to sing the tune. This vivid recollection is rare in modern advertising. It's also copied in countless YouTube remakes and in parodies of the ad, and we welcome this.
The record label: Hywel Evans, synchronisation director, EMI Records
One of the reasons for the decline of the jingle could be the versatility of recorded music. Consumers' tastes and knowledge of music are more sophisticated than ever and a recognisable song, a familiar artist or even the high production values of an otherwise unknown piece of commercial music impart a perception of quality. If there's nothing out there that fits the bill for a specific campaign, artists can write or record a track to a brief, as in Roisin Murphy's cover of Slave To Love for Gucci. We've also discussed adapting existing works into 'sonic branding devices' with agencies and artists or using existing recordings in jingles, along the lines of B&Q's use of It Ain't What You Do, It's The Way That You Do It by Fun Boy Three and Bananarama.
The music consultant: Paul Cartledge, music producer, Yellow Boat
There are now synergistic opportunities for bands and brands to align in ways that were previously dismissed out of hand. So, has the fact that sync usage is now much more commonplace killed the generic product jingle? The Thinkbox campaign doesn't wave a magic wand over the cultural and demographic shifts that have driven the jingle towards extinction. It does, however, make the point that jingles worked well historically and, in a business environment coming to terms with a global downturn, there can be no harm in looking back for inspiration. The jingle didn't just die out. It evolved. The Intel sonic logo approach became a de facto standard in music briefs for several years. So, is the jingle ripe for a return to global dominance? Unlikely. Will we see new, imaginative and creative use of the jingle and sonic logos? Let's hope so.
The creative director: Mark Fiddes, executive creative director of Draftfcb London
Eighty per cent of the information we receive comes to us visually - the rest via verbal and aural means. We remember poetry more easily than prose because metre and rhyme helps us to establish the lines in our heads. And, in a way, jingles are a popular form of poetry. Jingles seem to be most popular when the ad urges the consumer to act on it almost immediately. Those jingles are meant to stand there and remain with you. Similarly, you see jingles in retail such as the Morrisons "Let It Shine" campaign where instant consumer action is required. When I was looking after Calgon, we used the endline/jingle "Washing machines live longer with Calgon". You could change the washing machine repairman: you could alter the colour of his overalls. Every creative wants to make changes, but woe betide you if you wanted to tamper with the jingle.