How Commercial Jingles Work

The Future of Jingles

"A little dab'll do ya"
"A little dab'll do ya"
Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jingles were an advertiser's dream for the same reason the public can grow to hate them: You can't get them out of your head. But, as with most other stimuli, the more you experience them, the less of an effect they have on you. The widespread use of jingles on radio and TV has caused the newest generation of consumers to see them as hokey.

As we've mentioned, the commercial licensing of pop songs caused the decline of the jingle. In 1987, the Beatles tune "Revolution" was licensed for a Nike shoe campaign, which would prove to be the start of a revolution in advertising. As markets became increasingly clogged with indistinguishable products, it was no longer possible (or relevant) to tout the absolute supremacy of a product. To gain a loyal brand following, a good product was simply not enough -- a company now had to represent a lifestyle or an identity. Piggybacking on emotional and cultural experience became the most effective way to sell products. It's widely known that most humans have a deep emotional connection to music -- so instead of trying to form a new connection with consumers, why not let the Rolling Stones, Mike and the Mechanics, Fall Out Boy or Bob Seger do it for you?

Music purists derided the commercialization of their favorite tunes, and musicians who wanted to be considered "serious artists" vowed never to allow their songs to be used in a marketing campaign. In the 1980s, Sting famously rebuffed an offer to use the Police song "Don't Stand So Close To Me" in a deodorant commercial (but he and his music later went on to star in a Jaguar campaign in 2000). But for all the cries of ruination, these ad campaigns have significantly helped revive the music of several critically acclaimed but widely unknown musicians -- like Nick Drake, Stereolab and Spiritualized. In fact, marketers are quick to point out that much of the hype surrounding the licensing of pop songs for commercials comes from major record labels. Major labels are in crisis mode, desperately seeking new ways to promote their albums. Deals with advertisers -- and prime-time shows like "Grey's Anatomy" -- have helped record companies find new ways to promote their music and create additional revenue streams.

Product placement, the conspicuous inclusion of name-brand products in TV shows and movies, has also gained hold in recent years. With the invention of the digital video recorder (DVR), viewers can now fast-forward through commercials, forcing companies to find more clever ways to advertise their products.

Fashion is cyclical, though, and advertising is no exception to the rule. The ubiquity that led to the demise of jingles and the rise of licensed music is causing the pendulum to swing the other way. The cost of licensing music is getting higher as it becomes more popular, and jingles are being rediscovered for their promotional value in small and local markets. There may never be another "I'm stuck on Band-Aid, 'cause Band-Aid's stuck on me," but the jingle has proven itself as a tried-and-true technique for advertisers trying to worm their way into our brains.

To learn more about jingles, take a look through the links below.

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More Great Links


  • "The Visitor in Your Living Room: Radio Advertising in the 1930s:The Structure of Advertising."
  • Ad Age.Com: The Advertising Century; Top 10 Jingles.
  • Anderman, Joan. "The Irresistible, Singable, Stick-in-your-Mindable Jingle is Dead." Boston Globe, Jan. 9.2005.
  • Butler, Susan and Sexton, Paul. "The Beatles for Sale." Hollywood Reporter, Jan. 3. 2008.
  • "Army Retires 'Be All That You Can Be' Jingle."
  • Collision Detection: Earworms.
  • Jingle Brokers. "What is a Jingle, Really?"
  • Jingle: Totally Explained.
  • Journal of Applied Psychology. "Memory in a Jingle Jungle."
  • Kal Aaj Kal. "What Constitutes a Successful Jingle Campaign?"
  • LePage, Mark. "Who Doesn't Sell Out?" Montreal Gazette, Nov. 24, 2007.­74b2e3e0-b781-42fb-8df3-5f76e18d5ab8
  • Levitan, Daniel J. "This is Your Brain on Music." Penguin, 2006.
  • Marketing Playbook. "I'd Like to Teach the World to Jingle."
  • Metro Washington Old Time Radio Club: Ask the Expert.
  • Miyake, Akira, and Shah, Priti. "Models of Working Memory." Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  • News "Tagline Releases List of Most Influential Taglines & Jingles in the TV & Internet Era."
  • The Jingle Hall of Fame.
  • Pop Songs in Advertising.
  • University of Cincinnati School of Business: Earworms.