Here’s one for anybody who still wakes up with “Stuck On Band-Aid Brand” locked in their head—despite the fact that they haven’t heard the once-ubiquitious bandage ditty in at least 15 years—and wants a little revenge: a longform piece in The Atlantic, tracking the rise and eventual death of the advertising jingle.
Tracing the art form from its first hints, in a mournful barbershop quartet from the 1920s, up until Michael Jackson managed to pretty much kill them off in the ’80s by heralding the rise of licensed songs instead of short, 5-second ear worms, its a comprehensive look at how advertisers continue to seek out the ways to unlock our ape brains through song:
Meanwhile, marketers are focusing their efforts on licensing existing music from recording artists. Last year, the revenue from such deals reached a high of $355 million, according to the recording-industry trade group IFPI.
This is what advertising music means today: Instead of jingles, we have singles.
Besides shifting ad-person attitudes, the piece also spends some time meditating on the change in the feelings of musicians, vis a vis “selling out” by allowing their music to be used in ads. Citing spots like the Apple iPod spot that rocketed Feist’s “1 2 3 4” up the charts, it makes the case that “selling out” isn’t really something that happens anymore, especially when scoring a big commercial is just as good for the artist as it is for the product being hocked.
Still, there’s definitely some nostalgic sadness lurking around the edges of the piece—as when writer Tiffany Stanley talks to Steve Karmen, the “Jingle King” who wrote “Nationwide is on your side” (among others). “There are no jingles,” Karmen laments, a king long-deposed from his jaunty, irresistible throne.