Category Archives: chapter



Zits earworm
Zits earworm

“Radio jingles are those short, catchy musical interludes that tell you the name of the station, the program you’re listening to, identify news networks and other on-the-air features,” writes the Modesto Radio Museum website. “Radio jingles can be traced back to 1923, around the same time commercial radio began in the United States.” 1

Have You Tried Wheaties? – Jack Armstrong
Sung to the tune “She’s a Jazz Baby”

Tim Faulkner describes “How Commercial Jingles Work” at the How Stuff Works website:

It was on Christmas Eve, 1926 in Minneapolis, Minn., that the modern commercial jingle was born when an a cappella group called the Wheaties Quartet sang out in praise of a General Mills breakfast cereal. Executives at General Mills were actually about to discontinue Wheaties when they noticed a spike in its popularity in the regions where the jingle aired. So the company decided to air the jingle nationally, and sales went through the roof. Eighty years later, Wheaties is a staple in kitchens across the globe.2

“Although most of the effort was devoted to singing the virtues of products,” continues the Modesto Radio Museum, “a few stations began airing jingles to promote themselves. This became increasingly important as more and more stations took to the air, and the jumble of call letters that a listener was exposed to began to rise.” 3

“A good jingle can do wonders for business,” notes How Stuff Works:

It can save a dying brand, introduce a new item to a broader audience and rejuvenate a lackluster product. The histories of the jingle and commercial radio are inextricably entwined. Prior to the popularization of radio, products were sold on a one-on-one basis (at the store, or by a traveling salesman), and advertisements from those days reflect that. They are very direct, matter-of-factly describing the benefits of their product over their competitor’s. But as the radio audience grew, advertisers had to convince the public of the superiority of a product they couldn’t see – for this purpose, jingles were ideal.4

Rainier Wolfcastle – My bratwurst has a first name

“Jingles are written to be as easy to remember as nursery rhymes,” How Stuff Work continues. “The shorter the better, the more repetition the better, the more rhymes the better”:

Jingles are designed to infiltrate your memory and stay there for years, sometimes popping up from out of nowhere. You probably fondly remember all of the words to the Oscar Mayer B-O-L-O-G-N-A song, the “plop plop fizz fizz” chorus of the Alka-Seltzer jingle, and countless other melodies from your childhood.

Psychologists and neurologists who study the effects of music on the brain have found that music with a strong emotional connection to the listener is difficult to forget. It was this discovery that led marketers to license pop songs for advertising instead of commissioning original jingles. It turns out that some pop songs contain earworms: pleasantly melodic, easy-to-remember “hooks” that have the attributes of a typical jingle.

Earworms, also known by their German name, “ohrwurm,” are those tiny, 15- to 30-second pieces of music that you can’t get out of your head no matter how hard you try (the phenomenon is also called Song Stuck Syndrome, repetuneitis, the Jukebox Virus and melodymania). The word “earworm” was popularized by James Kellaris, a marketing professor at the University of Cincinnati, who has done a great deal (for better or worse) to bring this phenomenon to the forefront of the study of advertising techniques.5

That’s Entertainment Overture – Henry Mancini’s Orchestra

“Now scientists may have found a way to help anyone plagued by those annoying tunes that lodge themselves inside our heads and repeat on an endless loop,” writes Richard Gray for The Telegraph:

Researchers claim the best way to stopping the phenomenon…is to solve some tricky anagrams.…

“The key is to find something that will give the right level of challenge,” said Dr Ira Hyman, a music psychologist at Western Washington University who conducted the research. “If you are cognitively engaged, it limits the ability of intrusive songs to enter your head.…

“Verbal tasks like solving anagrams or reading a good novel seem to be very good at keeping earworms out,” said Dr Hyman, who now hopes to examine whether similar techniques could be used to prevent other intrusive thoughts caused by anxiety or obsessiveness.

He added: “Music is relatively harmless but easy to start. Choruses tend to get stuck in your head because they are the bit we know best and because we don’t know the second or third verse, the song remains unfinished. Unfinished thoughts are more likely to return.” 6


1 “Radio Jingles,” Modest Radio Museum, at (retrieved: 22 November 2014).

2 Tim Faulkner, “How Commercial Jingles Work,” How Stuff Works, at (retrieved: 22 November 2014).

3 “Radio Jingles,” Modest Radio Museum.

4 Faulkner, “How Commercial Jingles Work.”

5 Faulkner, “How Commercial Jingles Workm,” at (retrieved: 22 February 2014).

6 Richard Gray, “Get that tune out of your head – scientists find how to get rid of earworms,” The Telegraph, 24 March 2013, at (retrieved: 22 November 2014).

Related videos

“Commercial Jingles: Ten Elements of Great Advertising Jingles – by Billy Mitchell,” Kevin Crosby video at, (retrieved: 22 November 2014). (Show video)

“‘The Beauty of Whole Grains’ by Dempster’s®,” Dempster’s® video at, (retrieved: 22 November 2014). (Show video)

Related book

Stop censorship