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Advertising And Pop Music

The sound of commerce.  How advertising has moved in on American popular music.

Barry Manilow performed or co-wrote a number of commercial jingles early in his career, most notably for State Farm, Bandaid, and Stridex. (AP)

Barry Manilow performed or co-wrote a number of commercial jingles early in his career, most notably for State Farm, Bandaid, and Stridex. (AP)

From the dawn of radio, music and mass marketing have had a big affair.  It took about five minutes for songs sung forever in hills and hollows to be put to work selling biscuit flour.  Right behind came the great age of jingles that probably still rattle around your head.

Things go better with Coke, and all the rest.  And at some point, whatever dam there was between popular music and ads just broke.  The Beatles and Bob Dylan and Alicia Keys – everybody, it seems – selling stuff with their songs.

This hour, On Point:  a new look at the marriage of music and marketing in America.

-Tom Ashbrook


Timothy Taylor, professor in the department of ethnomusicology and musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He’s the author of The Sounds of Capitalism: Advertising, Music, and the Conquest of Culture. You can read an excerpt here.

Ron Dante, singer, songwriter, session vocalist, and record producer. He was a successful jingle performer and composer.

From Tom’s Reading List

Slate “Could Kraftwerk have made a jumble of numbers any catchier than that jingle, performed by Hauldren’s own barbershop quartet, the Fabulous 40s? And why was I protective of those manipulative notes? I still remember the shock when I heard the song in New York with “800” shoehorned at the top of the harmonized call signal, a mandatory addition once the company expanded beyond Illinois. That was my carpet jingle!”

Spinner “Man, those free credit report jingles can be pretty annoying. But the thing is — and we hate to admit this — they’re also kind of catchy. Though classic-rock hits have nudged out original jingles as the primary musical vehicle for selling stuff, the very best advertising songs are synonymous with their products — and have become burned into our brains. Here are our favorite commercial tunes throughout the years.”


Check of the trailer for the Sounds of Capitalism.


Here’s Bob Dylan’s Victoria Secret commercial.

Check out this famous diet Pepsi commercial with Ray Charles from 1991.

Here’s singer Barry Manilow playing some of his commercial jingles.


I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing
“Like A Rock” by Bob Seger
Bob Dylan “Angels in Venice”
The Fleischmann’s Yeast Hour
Chiquita Banana by Mack Shopnick
Chiquita Banana “Opera Rumba”
“Back Seat Blues” Ford commercial
“Things Go Better With Coca-Cola” by Aretha Franklin
“You’ve Got a Lot to Live” by Johnny Cash
“You’ve Got a Lot to Live” by Roberta Flack
“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”
“You! You’re the One!” by Gladys Knight and the Pips
“Sugar Sugar” by Archies
“Anticipation” by Carly Simon
“Revolution” by The Beatles
“Be All You Can Be”
“Pink Moon” by Nick Drake
“Fun” by Wiseguys
Chris Brown Forever Wrigley Doublemint Commercial
“Too Close” by Alex Clare
“New Soul” by Yael Naïm

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  • 1Brett1

    I write confessional commercial jingles…of course we’ve all heard the one that goes, “I feel like I’m alone, swimming in an existential ocean; that’s why I’m heading to McDonald’s!” …Yep, I wrote that. 

    • Pointpanic

      nothing to brag about.

      • 1Brett1

        um…joking…you know the idea of confessional writing juxtaposed with writing jingles…nevermind….

        • Pointpanic


          • 1Brett1

            No prahl-m…

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  • Flytrap

    This is maybe the best new commercial using pop music, visuals, psychological suggestion etc. I have seen.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM8TpvDUnqE

  • http://www.facebook.com/anita.paul.5680 Anita Paul

    A couple of songs I have on my Ipod I got from commercials. I had never had of the bands before I downloaded them.  I looked up on the commercials on line to find the titles.

  • johnsloth

    “He who pays the piper is apt to call the tune”. Commercialism saturates art… what a shame. I get it but what a shame. I will remember there was a time when Bob Dylan’s musical direction was unencumbered by efforts to sell products as was the Beatles and these were their most fruitively creative years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1321126285 Lewis Kirk

    Don’t forget The Who Sells Out released in 1967! With song jingles between the songs. And then they did the ultimate sell out with the CSI franchise.

  • Jean Dickson

    popular music was connected to marketing in the USA before radio became so pervasive — at the so-called medicine shows that moved from town to town.  There is a nice CD set called “Good for what ails you” that has a bunch of the mostly humorous songs that attracted people to these shows, so that they could be induced to buy some kind of pills or whatever.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.beckwith.7 Steve Beckwith

    I remember hearing a radio interview of Eric Clapton (possibly on Fresh Air) saying he was in rehab watching TV with other patients when his “After Midnight” commercial for Michelob came on the air. He said he didn’t even remember making the commercial…

  • Scott B

    Ask the Black Keys about their music being in so many ads. Dan Auerbach says that commercials are the radio of the the 2000′s. If you want to get your music heard and make money, that’s where you go. Millions of kids watch TV and hear their music, sending them to Walmart or iTunes. 

    It does crack me up when I’ve had to explain to someone born only knowing CD’s or iTunes that these “new” songs are from Dylan, the Stones, Sinatra, and so many others.

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  • culltture

    Daniel Gewertz, journalist, here. One big concept need to be introduced here. When jingles lost favor, and the famous songs of our culture took over in commercials (especially the huge, measningful anthems of a previous generstion) it was a movement to usurp the meaning of a society, the tokens of social statement and generational wisdom. It was capitalism not only becoming more important than pop culture, but purposefully diminishing the power of pop culture. It is no accident this happe3ned after the 1960s and 1970s, when pop music was partially meant to CHANGE society, at least in some small ways.

  • Scott B

    If memory serves me right, The Archies were the band Don Kirshner started because The Monkees didn’t want to do “Sugar Sugar” or commercial work.

    • Pointpanic

      THat’s kind of weird given that the monkees seemed to me like a made -for Tv band anyway.

      • Scott B

         They were a made for TV band. They got some success and started wanting to write their own stuff, manage themselves, etc. Nesmith and Tork were mediocre players at best when they first started, and Dolenz had no drum experience at all.

  • Dick Johnson

    Nedick’s orange drink sponsored the Brooklyn Dodgers in the late forties.  I still remember the jingle:

    My name is little Nick
    and mister let me be precise
    You’ve lost your stepYou’re out of pep
    So here is my advice:
    “What should I do, Little Nick?”
    “ere’s what you do, Mister Quick,
    You stop in at your nearest Nedick’s store.”
    “What’ll I buy?”
    “A big delicious glass of Needick’s tasty orange drink,
    Its cool refreshing flavot you’ll adore!”
    “Tell me more.  What doers it cost, Little Nick?”
    “Only a nickle, Mr./ Quick.
    A glass will help to keep you in the pink.”
    “That’s terrif!”
    “For vigor and vim and zip
    It’s a pleasure to take a sip
    Of a cool Nedick’s orange drink
    B1, Nedick’s, B1″

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BSQCL636RT2GLSXYOBIS7NO53I a

    As a jingle lyricist composer, inside an agency during the Mad Men era,  I can say with a great deal of confidence that the last thing I would compose was anything that sounded like an “in” sound. The first campaign I ever created for Peter Paul Mounds featured the musical sound of Spike Jones. It ran for two years. It was the forerunner of “Sometimes I feel like a nut”..which I did not write. A jingle I wrote for Cheerios was on air for ten years and broke rule after rule as it related to the visuals. No one was seen eating Cheerios, No one in pajamas. No morning scene. It was one of the first  feel good about commercials with the theme  “get a pow pow powerful good good feelin’ from cheer cheer Cheerios. Toyota, out of the same agency, then ran “Get the fellin’ Toyota” , and “Oh what a feelin’ Toyota.” The Chevy’s and Cokes of the world can go with a “now” sound because they have the money to beat people to death. Without  those kinds of budgets one has to create a unique sound. In fact I don’t l listen to pop music, and I can’t hear lyrics. Long jingles, like most of those I wrote are few and far between today. One reason? Advertisers don’t know how to do it.At my suggestion, the Cheerios jingle I referred to was run on radio for 3 months as if it were a pop tune. That imbedded the music in the minds of listeners before they ever saw the TV commercial. Alan Snedeker

  • Scott B

    Michael Jackson, none of the Beatles, nor Yoko, sold the rights to Nike, since he owned the rights to much of the Beatles’ catalog.

  • BpenfieldJ

    What about the recent trend of companies copying the sound of Indie bands that are unwilling to sell their music for use in commercials.  This happened recently with the band Beach House’s song “Take Care” and Volkswagen.  It is very difficult for bands to have the similar sounding songs removed from the commercials since they  are not using the actual song.  Bands are being forced to either “sell out” or miss out on the money they would get for licensing the music since it will basically be used anyways.

  • Scott B

    At least the artists are getting paid well when products pick them up for commercials, which is more than can be said for web-based sites that pay them a few cents, if not a fractions of a cent, per download.

    There are a lot of starving artists out there, grinding it out, trying to make a living on the road, that wish a brand would pick their tune. It’s a way to get your music heard. Music on the radio sucks, as they play the top 40 over and over, and new artists only get heard when the record company pushes the ones they feel can make the most money.

  • Boston_mom

    Nope. I heard POlice Walking on the Moon on a commercial, one of my favorite police songs, and it was a little sad to me because they were once so rebellious. What really surprised me was when I heard Modest Mouse selling a minivan. Tagline something like, Times have changed, why shouldn’t you? or something. Loved the song, and it’s hard not to feel good when you hear the riffs, but sad. They said they never even knew it was being used until after. I have mixed feelings. I understand selling out to make a buck. BUT it does put musicians in a different light to me. I can’t help it. 

  • Rex Henry

    Nothing ruins a good song like putting it in a commercial. There are now certain songs I associate with the product they were paired with.

    • Pointpanic

      Rex, it’s called co-optation and “public” radio  is going right along with it.

  • Scott B

    The Black Keys broke big because of commercials, as did Fun.  The BK’s would have broken sooner, but they turned down an offer for just under $300K for an Italian brand. They say that at the time they felt they would have been selling out, but if they could go back they’d take the offer, because that’s how so much music gets out these days.

  • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

    This is a audio commentary I did for ATC 9? years ago. You can link it.
    NPR RADIO Commentary – Funny Critique of obnoxious ubiquitous musical
    Mitsubishi TV ads – 3 min  

    Go to http://tripod.com first if doesn’t work (must be accessed from a tripod site)

  • apaddler

    Some time ago we heard a commercial for CVS Pharmacy intriguing enough to prompt us to e-mail CVS to learn the artist’s name.  It was singer/song writer Kathy Fisher with a cover of Sarah McLachlan’s “Ordinary Miracle”.  It would seem that Ms Fisher has one foot in well planted in the commercial side of the music business, which certainly puts her talents in front of a huge audience.

  • Pointpanic

    This is one of the most disgusting examples of “public” radio selling out to the ad industry. I thought “public” radio was about
    critical thinking so integral to citizenship as well as  arts and culture not encouraging passive consumption of goods and services simply because we hear our favorite song . Not ONCE did I hear the word “co-optation”! Tom Ashbrook’s reading list and the line-up of chosen guests shows how all-too-willing ,he was to shill for commercials for products that are a public health hazard. Ironically enough “Sugar Sugar” was the perfect analogy to Coke and Pepsi; the junk food of pop music.And I would say the same to the guest who rasied the ‘counterculture” NO sir, pepsi was not part of the counterculture .It CO-OPTED  counterculture. And “ON POint ” went right along with it offering us no voices ,critical of the ad industry’s place in a democracy.Finally, I cannot print my reaction to the guest who claimed that jingles will become as loved as pop music and will be heard in museums. I hope the public shames him into eating his words. It’s yet another way ,the market infests every aspect of our lives. This is hardly the first time, NPR has violated is mission statement or belied its own claims of “commercial free independent journalism” touted at every fundraiser.But ,to me, it is the most egregiously hideous example to date.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CY3CYMUIUJES75RC6SPSI32TXU Mthivier2001

    One more example: Late country entertainer Dottie West won a 1973 Cleo for the jingle she wrote for Coke, “Country Sunshine”. She later recorded it and released it as a record, but it was written primarily as a jingle.

  • Ketje

    I like the most recent example of commerce-in-pop, which is actually bit of a mixed, mildly satirical, statement. It’s in the re-release of Lana del Rey’s album, which includes the track “Pepsi” and has the line “My pussy tastes like Pepsi-Cola”. This was discussed amusingly over a radio in Europe I was listening to during a recent trip over there (but never mentioned over OnPoint in this prude nation).  

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