Ad jingles: lazy advertising or simple route to memorable advertising?

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Jingles have been part of advertising for decades. When done well, they have the potential to create a memory hook for the brand. In India too, jingles have been popular for several decades. Consumers seem to love them – especially those from the 80s and 90s, going by the several nostalgic posts on the web & social media about ‘those were the days for great jingles’.

The common characteristic of popular jingles over the years have been: simplicity of lyrics, hummable tune and weaving in the brand name into the jingle. These aid in recall value of the brand – even after decades. A few memorable ones include:

Lifebuoy: Tandurusti ki raksha
Godrej Storwell: Saajan ke aangan mein pehla kadam
Nerolac: Jab ghar ki raunaq
Amul: Piyon glass-full doodh
Bajaj: Hamara Bajaj
OK soap: jo OK sabun se nahaaye

Cadbury: kya swad hai
Jai soap: pehla pyar
Lijjat Paapad: kharram kurram
Vodafaone: You and I
ECE bulbs: bhool na jaana
Gold Spot: the zing thing

I am sure there are many more – both in national and regional advertising. Of course, an ad’s memorability relies on several factors – the most important one being the creative idea itself: how it says what needs to be said. The execution can then take the ad several notches higher and make it more interesting, watchable, memorable and transfer the positive equity to the brand. When an ad lacks a strong creative idea, a great execution – be in terms of production values, high impact computer graphics, a memorable or quirky dialogue delivery, acting and even the jingle can help it stand out from the clutter.

The jingle is not always the first choice when it comes to creating a TV script. In fact, David Ogilvy famously said “When you have nothing to say, sing it.” Of course, when it comes to radio spots – given the nature of the medium, a jingle is a great option. In the audio medium too, radio spots with a creative idea stand out from the clutter.

Jingle = lazy advertising?

Advertising can be termed lazy when the team takes no risks and opts for a safe route often resulting in ads which are run-off-the-mill or lack a creative idea. There’s a popular format in advertising: a montage of sequences set to music. In India, it is a common route adopted when plurality and diversity of brand adoption needs to be shown. So a car or bike used across India will show representative folks from various regions set to some stirring music or song. ‘Hamara Bajaj’ and ‘Mile sur mera tumhara’ would be good examples of this approach. This too can be considered as lazy advertising with the lot of dependency on the quality of the jingle and the ability of the whole package to evoke goose flesh moments.

Opting for celebrity endorsements as an automatic guarantee of clutter-breaking ability can also be termed as lazy advertising (we see that a lot during IPL). But just as smart use of a celebrity – either as a character or in an interesting avatar (CRED and Rahul Dravid?) can pay dividends to a brand, a song or jingle based advertising can also be ‘strategic’. The core message of the popular Cadbury Dairy Milk cricket ad in a relatable context of a cricket match, struck a chord. The execution element of the original song and the powerful combination of great lyrics & music took it to another level. A couple of other examples of a jingle adding value to the core idea:

Some marketers & agencies believe that merely signing up a celebrity and having him or her mouth some inane dialogue. Just as that is not an optimal approach merely relying on a jingle (a mediocre one that too) without a creative idea or ‘nothing to say’ may not cut it in this highly cluttered media. In my view the only priority should be to tell a compelling, engaging story that meets the business objective of the brand – be it creating awareness, changing mindset or influencing an action. If a jingle can help in achieving the objective, why not?

Jingles – not in vogue in the digital age?

‘Those were the days’ syndrome is prevalent across many domains – movie, film songs, literature and such like. Many who’ve grown up in the 80s or 90s don’t consider current film songs to be good enough. Such a sentiment seems to be prevalent with ad jingles too. That apart, one notices a lot of remix of yesteryear songs instead of original compositions.

In the digital world, where short form videos and Reels have become common, maybe there’s a reluctance to use audio-visual impact. Also one’s read about digital videos having to factor in for consumers watching videos on mute (hence the practice of using sub-titles to aid comprehension). Maybe that could be a reason why it feels jingles & original compositions are few and far between of late. Or is it simply a question of talent – as seen in the disappearance of well-crafted print ads in English in the digital era?

In sum, there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to the usage of jingles – if it can support a relevant, distinct core creative idea it’s a great value addition to aid brand memorability.

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