Jingle Me This

The humble advertising jingle. We see a few of them around, but not in the numbers we used to. I have a hard time figuring out their absence from the modern advertising scene. Has there ever been a more effective sales tool for stupid things that absolutely nobody needs?

Awhile back, I watched a documentary about a fellow named Ab Jenkins, a pioneer in setting land speed records on the Bonneville salt flats in the 1930’s. He was a guy who never smoked but always kept a pack of chewing gum to help him stay awake during long endurance runs. This might have gotten others thinking about how long since they had sampled a stick of gum or maybe a favorite old brand or flavor. (Had this been my knee-jerk response, I probably would have remembered the Beech-Nut’s Fruit Stripe (“Yipes Stripes”) or the Clark Teaberry from my childhood). But that was not what my brain did. It reached for a different drawer and had me re-listening to an old jingle from the television ads of long ago. “Brush your breath, brush your breath, brush your breath with Dentine” went on a replay loop in my mind and, had I been near a store, I might have looked to see if they still make Dentine gum (another flavor I used to like).

There, now you can think about it too. You’re welcome.

It has occurred to me that advertising jingles seem to have gone out of style. I get that they seem simple and declasse’, but I also have to admit that they were supernaturally effective in embedding a product name in the human brain. Some of them are still there in my noggin decades after I heard them.

There has been no cigarette advertising on television since 1971, but I still remember both the tune and the words to “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should”. Even as a smoker, I don’t think I ever bought a pack of Winstons, but I sure remember their jingle.

When the Chef Boyardee cans came out when it was up to me to shovel a hot lunch into some kids, I could not avoid the singing announcement that “We’re having Beefaroni!” When these ads were running my own mother usually bought the generic Chef Boyardi Italy-In-A-Can in the shape of ravioli. But ravioli never came with a cool jingle, so whatever shape of identical-tasting product was in the little red cans, this jingle still plays every time.

My mother did, however, get us in on the ground floor of Beefaroni’s competition when she added Franco-American Spaghetti-Os to the pantry. Why a company with a name like Franco-American (that used a French flag in its logo) served up Italian food is a mystery that shall go unexplored. It has been a long time since Spaghetti-Os were new, but I still think of the “neat new spaghetti you can eat with a spoon, Uh-Oh, Spaghetti-Os”. The ad I could find doesn’t start with the jingle until about the 30 second mark. I also remember that there were 18 little meatballs in the can. I never actually counted them, but I trusted that the advertisers would never lie to me.

Not far from the canned pastas were the boxed versions. Does anyone besides me want to sing “The San Francisco Treat” after seeing the name “Rice-A-Roni”? They came up with one of the best mind-worm kind of jingles in the history of jingledom.

We don’t buy that many hot dogs these days, but whenever I am near that section in the grocery store the old hot dog jingles start fighting for attention. Most everyone is familiar with “I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener”. That one is easy to find on YouTube.

The one that eludes me is the ad that played in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area for the local “Marhoefer Happy Wiener”. To the tune of “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”, the singing children would imitate a singing hot dog, with the words:

“I’m a mealtime joy for a girl or boy / The kids all think I’m keener / and the grown ups too cause I’m good for you / I’m a Marhoefer Happy Wiener.”

And thankfully, Alka-Seltzer was right there with a good, soothing jingle after your stomach got overwhelmed with the avalance of other foods the jingle-people were selling us.

There are a million of them. You were (or maybe still are) all set if you need insurance, with “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” Or “Nationwide is on your side.” At breakfast there was “Snap Crackle Pop, Rice Krispies.”

I cannot drive past a Burger King without thinking that I can “Have it your way”. In fact, I always remember that I can “hold the pickle, hold the lettuce” because “special orders don’t upset us” even though I have never requested that pickles or lettuce be withheld from a burger in my life. A man has to have his vegetables, you know. That would actually be a great idea for a place like Culvers, that could sing “Hold the onions, hold the mustard / save some room for frozen custard”. Oops, I should have gotten my royalty deal signed before I let this one out into the public. Oh well.

Jingles may have gone out of style, but they sure have a long half-life because ones written and broadcast during my childhood are still paying dividends, with me actually still buying some of those jingle-sold products and wishing I could buy others that are no longer around. Like Crispy Critters – you remember that one – it was “The one and only cereal that comes in the shape of animals.”

Marianne tells me that I can be absent minded when I forget to do something she has asked me to do. I think I need to suggest that she work on her jingle-writing skills. A catchy rhyme coupled to a familiar tune can make me remember almost anything.

COAL Update: Did you ever have a car that you should have liked a lot, but came to simply despise because almost everything it did irritated you? This one made its first and third owners both happy and satisfied, but I am evidently a difficult person to satisfy.


31 thoughts on “Jingle Me This

  1. “You asked for it…you got it…Toyota!”

    “I’d ruther go to Druther’s Restaurant!”

    It’s early, but two ear worms have already popped to the surface. While I had not noticed until you mentioned it, but jingles do seem to be on a hiatus these days. Is that a good thing or not? That could be argued either way.

    Rice-A-Roni is lucky in having two associations; the jingle and being the seemingly automatic consolation prize for those losing on game shows.

    The scary thing is most of the jingles reemerged in my head simply upon seeing the ad; the video was often not necessary! That should classify as effective advertising.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Druthers must have been regional, as I have not heard that one. And yes, what a terrible prize for a game show – “You missed winning the new car, but Johnny, tell him about the twelve boxes of Rice-A-Roni he gets to take home!”

      When I was in college there was a local radio station that hit on a gimmick of pretending that it was something like 1941 for the day, and they played period shows, music, and even commercials. I even got an earworm out of that one: “Pepsi Cola hits the spot / Twelve full ounces, that’s a lot /Twice as much for a nickel too / Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you.” I wonder if some guy at an ad agency in the early 1940s would imagine that someone could still sing that one 80 years in the future?


  2. A buddy of mine that has been in the ad business as long as I have says what he’s noticed replacing the jingle is the “chant”, which to his mind is annoying. Liberty Mutual insurance, which at the end of their ad chants: “Liberty, Liberty, Liberty”, seems to him to be the most annoying, and passes for just yelling at you. I think he’s got a point. No real creativity there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought about those, and wondered how to treat them. They are kind of jingle-ish, but then again they are not really jingles. I agree with your friend that they are kind of annoying. “Aflack!” is the worst.


  3. We do have a jingle locally for an HVAC contractor, “Call Reliance!” but it’s not on YouTube. In fact I recalled the jingle but couldn’t remember what the company did. Maybe a modern version is “the Windows sound” which is instantly recognizable.

    More importantly, where did you find the Ab Jenkins documentary? I’ve seen a trailer, but not figured out where to get the actual thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I saw it on one of the streaming services. I had trouble remembering which one, but you are in luck because I texted about it to one of the kids – it was on Prime, at least as of mid December. I highly recommend it.

      I started remembering a bunch of local jingles from when I was growing up. Car dealers and furniture stores seemed good for several of them.


  4. Oh, man. I remember those grand and glorious earworms of yesteryear. Choo-Choo Charlie for Good ‘n’ Plenty comes to mind right away. Doral’s, “taste me.” Some taglines are exceptionally memorable, as well. I don’t know why they don’t do them anymore, either. I did a cursory search for the Ford commercials based on The Old Philosopher but oddly couldn’t find any. “So you say you told your wife you were looking for a classy pickup, and you got a phone call? From her lawyer? Is that what’s troubling you, Bunky?” The Dentyne ones were incredible, “That young nurse is sure courageous ’cause breath like yours could be contagious.” I kind of remember the “Plop-plop-fizz-fizz” but I really remember, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” Thanks for the cool earworms.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m probably stretching your definition of tasteful music here, J.P., but as a teen I was all about Barry Manilow. Your post immediately brought to mind his “Live” album, which included a weird concoction called “VSM” or Very Special Medley. It was a compilation of Manilow’s commercial jingles, the ones he either sang or wrote. He was involved in some of the biggest of the era, including McDonald’s (the “You deserve a break today… so get up and get away…” one), Dr. Pepper (“It’s the most… original soft drink ever in the whole… wide… world….”), and Pepsi (“All across the nation… it’s the Pepsi generation… here today, here to stay…”). As for your examples, the only one I couldn’t remember without playing the video was for Beefaroni. I do remember the kids running through the streets (of Venice, I think). Must’ve been a blast to make that video. The Rice-a-Roni jingle, to your point, is probably the most brain-cemented them all. I got a kick out of the camera spending a little more time than necessary on the woman’s legs as she departed the cable car. Sex appeal was hard at work, even back then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew that Barry had a pretty good early career with jingles. I don’t remember that particular Dr Pepper jingle, just the “I’m a Pepper, you’re a Pepper, He’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too”.

      I think the “sex sells” thing has been around for a long time.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the trip down commercial lane! I was going to say the Pepsodent jingle too…as if any toothpaste could make your teeth that white? The Coke commercial – “I’d like to buy the world a coke” with the kids on the hilltop, early 70’s? Your mom was so lucky to have won a car. I don’t remember them ever having contests like that here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had forgotten about this one. It is a good question how we classify this one – it seems more ambitious than a simple jingle, but it does the same thing.


      • Wow, looked at that PBR commercial from 1979, and if anyone needed to know how Pabst lost its groove, it all right there! PBR was the working class beer of choice, and denizen of everyone’s Dads beer refrigerator in the basement, for most of our youth. After losing their customers by trying to push rapid brewing methodology, which resulted in milky looking brew that tasted like crap, some idiot ad agency must have smoked way too much pot before they wrote this loser of an ad! I was 25 in 1979, and I can tell you disco was not a “thing” by then, and the blush was way off the rose. I’d also be willing to bet that they might have served very few beers in any disco, a complete mis calculation of their customer! Thank God they went back to original formula and the hipsters discovered it in the 2010s!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed reading this post JP – I remembered every one of those jingles verbatim and yes, they helped you remember the product and left an ear worm as well. There are a few videos on YouTube of collections of fun commercials from different eras. I found it by accident and spent an enjoyable hour or so reliving the olden days. I don’t know if I should be proud of myself that I can still rattle off “two all beef patties, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.”

    When you mentioned the gum in the beginning of the post, I stopped for a moment to remember when I last had a piece of gum. I have TMJ so I was recommended not to chew gum, so it’s been decades since I had a piece of gum. I am one of the lucky ones with TMJ – I never get headaches, but my jaws pop if I open wide, say for a “Big Mac” or a “BK Whopper”. Whenever I have a new dental hygienist, she freaks out when she says “open wide!” I loved Dentine, the oblong, short pieces of cinnamon flavored-gum, but the duration of its zesty taste was about as long as the Beech-Nut Fruit Stripes gum. I also remember the Clark Teaberry and their Black Jack and Clove. Clove had a strong taste, but we all chewed Black Jack in junior high to make our tongues turn black. You can buy Clark’s vintage flavors on Amazon.

    Having worked in the Creative Department of a major ad agency right out of college, this was a time when jingles were still being used and I’d hear the guys trying to come up with witty sayings to pair with music. It seems all the commercials I hear on the radio or on Amazon Prime are too loud and screamy, or I can’t understand what they are saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I enjoyed reading about your mom’s LaCrosse too JP. How exciting to win that car just by pushing the OnStar button. My OnStar service just “sunsetted” the end of 2022. I was impressed when you recognized my odometer showing the frosty morning and nailed it as a LaCrosse odometer. I remember the ignition key issue. They were on backorder forever and on the day I had the appointment at the dealership, I really hadn’t researched or heard how they would fix the problem and was surprised to drive into the service bay and merely hand the service manager both sets of car keys. I had a bench seat, also leather seats, purchased as it was easier for my mom to get into the car. I know what you mean about getting in/out of the car. I am 5’ 9” with long legs as I mentioned in your recent “tall post” and settling down into the seat is a very long way down, no matter how I adjust it. More than a half-hour or so in the car and when climbing out I feel like I’ve been sitting on the floor and scrambling to get up again.

    Liked by 1 person

      • OnStar is still a thing with lots of enhancements now, but it is sunsetted for all vehicles with 2G connectivity (thru model year 2015). I could continue with OnStar but needed a special app on a smartphone and while the crash response is a good feature, the one big draw was having up to seven (I believe) family members/friends know your location if your phone is on. I have no one to share locations with and I have Allstate Auto Club – I’m still mulling it over as I recently got a smartphone. I have a lower price as a long-time OnStar subscriber who was sunsetted ($15.00/month).

        Liked by 1 person

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