Most Americans can recite their share of jingles. Perhaps they can’t remember their partner’s cell phone number, but they know every digit required to reach Empire carpet. Or every word of “I’m a Toys ‘R Us Kid.” Or that the best part of waking up is Folgers in their cup.
And yet, despite its effectiveness, the jingle has become a relic of the mid-20th-century commercials it once dominated. Today’s pop songs and yesterday’s classics have effectively replaced the jingle: A Kanye West song plays in an ad for Bud Light Platinum, Lady Gaga’s “Applause” is a party anthem for the Kia Soul’s spokeshamsters, and a Bob Dylan track helps advertise Victoria’s Secret. Amid all this, Oscar Mayer decided to retire two of the most popular jingles of all time, “My Bologna Has a First Name” and “I Wish I Was an Oscar Mayer Weiner.” In 2010, the company announced a new ad campaign, sans the old tunes. “What we did not want to do was write jingles,” an ad exec told The New York Times.
The decline of jingles does not stop with a few big-name brands: A 1998 survey of television commercials by the American Association of Advertising Agencies counted 153 jingles in a sample of 1,279 national, 30-second ads; by 2011, the last year the survey was produced, those numbers had dropped to only eight original jingles out of 306 commercials. (Between 1998 and 2011, the survey’s sample size shrunk as national, 30-second ads became rarer.) 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.