The First Ever Commercial Jingle, We Think

I just read a story about the rise and fall of commercial jingles and how changes in the advertising, television and music industries brought and continue to bring it about. You can read it here if that’s something you think you might be interested in doing.

But even if you’re not super interested in that, hopefully you’ll be interested in the part that caught my eye in the first place, the talk of what was probably the first ever sung radio commercial.

Nobody is 100 percent sure, but it’s believed that the honour goes to this sad sounding 1926 Wheaties ad.

Doesn’t exactly pump you up for a new day, does it? But hell if it didn’t work, perhaps because the concept was so new or maybe because the damn thing does have a strange way of crawling its way into your brain, probably making you want some breakfast if you sat and thought about it long enough.

Personally, I miss jingles. Part of this undoubtedly owes to my being a blind guy who longs for the days when I could watch a set of ads on TV without having to Google what the fuck 3 quarters of them were trying to sell me based on little more than a song I’d never heard and maybe a couple words of sensible dialogue if I’m lucky, but a lot of it is simply because they’re memorable and fun and above all, they work. When I hear Feist I don’t immediately think about iPods, but when I hear this, for instance, you bet I want to improve a home I don’t even own.

Though there is some debate, credit for the first commercial jingle usually goes to a Wheaties spot in 1926. The company that made Wheaties, the Minnesota-based Washburn Crosby (the predecessor of General Mills), tried to resurrect the flagging cereal on the radio with a song from a local barbershop quartet. It went like this:
Have you tried Wheaties?
They’re whole wheat with all of the bran.
Won’t you try Wheaties?
For wheat is the best food of man.
They’re crispy and crunchy
The whole year through,
The kiddies never tire of them
and neither will you.
So just try Wheaties,
The best breakfast food in the land.
It was straightforward, and sounded more like a dirge than the upbeat ditties that would come in the following decades. But the promo worked spectacularly, and the jingle made its way around the national market. It was a new way to advertise: The jingle was a natural fit for radio, and later television, both mediums well-suited to audio.

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