Nothing is treated with as much value and dread in the music industry as the earworm. Earworms are the industry name for commercial jingles that stick in your memory like peanut butter on the roof of your mouth, valued by advertisers but dreaded by consumers who can’t get rid of the catchy melodies.
Since the earliest days of broadcasting, jingles to accompany advertisements have often outlasted the products they promoted. Today, you don’t hear jingles as much anymore, because advertising agencies prefer to adapt familiar commercial hit records or just buy generic background music rather than try to create a new song with a hook from scratch. But in past decades, advertising agencies often employed songwriters for that specific purpose, to write pithy, hooky, appealing, and above all, memorable jingles. One of the most famous of these was Barry Manilow, who, before becoming a pop superstar, wrote successful jingles for Band-Aids (“I’m stuck on Band-Aids, ’cause Band-Aids stuck on me”) and State Farm Insurance (“Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there”). (Manilow said he was paid $500 for writing the State Farm commercial.)
Here’s a brief history of some of the most popular and enduring jingles specifically written for commercial products, including the names of the writers responsible for their composition.
“Yo-Ho Song” (Hurrah for the Wonder Bakers)
Music by Will Donaldson, Words by Frank Moulan
Jingle for Wonder Bread, broadcast on NBC
Music by Harmon Oscar Nelson, Jr., Words by Harry Von Zell
Used on The Jack Benny Jell-O Program
Von Zell was a radio station announcer who merely sang the “lyrics” of the jingle, which consisted of the five letters, “J-E-L-L-O” to the melody of an ascending major scale.
“I’m Chiquita Banana”
Music & lyrics by William Wirges, Len Mcakenzie, and Garth Montgomery
Capitalizing on the post-war rhumba craze and associated with Carmen Miranda-type vocalists.
“Brylcreem, a Little Dab’ll Do Ya”