I'm inching back toward this blog.
It was once all about film written exclusively by women, although mostly me. And as anyone near to me already knows, my interests in recent years have veered more toward things like ballet and advertising, and insofar as anyone can pursue it, the beach.
Today I want to talk about advertising.
Being behind agency doors is a lot different than I imagined it to be during all those years, particularly during grad school, when people would say "You should be in advertising" after they asked what I planned to do for paying work post-graduation. I would knit my brow hard and say charming things like, "I am going to be a film critic." Because, motherfucker, I study the cinema. It was super cute. Some people I know have actually become critics--paid ones!--and their ambition and seeing it through-edness is not to be diminished. Those motherfuckers are amazing.
I took my first copywriting job in 2006 out of necessity, but now I love the work. I was broke then and the contract gig paid well. I kept taking jobs like this until years later I snuck into a full-time copywriter position at a downtown agency by the skin of my teeth.
It was a terrible agency. But the experience was invaluable. The thing that ran most through my head during that time was the idea of the missing byline. How many ads, TV commercials, radio spots, banner ads, and dastardly page take-overs have you read or heard without ever knowing who authored them? The answer for me was innumerable.
Having come from an industry where securing a prominent byline was as valuable as the payment for work itself, the mystery of how all these ads could go by on a mass scale without a name attached was fantastic.
This voice, the "byline", as one comes to learn, is called "the brand."
Why the fuck is an inanimate object, a goddamn label, talking to me? But it totally is. Coming to terms with this truth--in the wise words of Cher from Clueless (1995)--I am overcome with a sense of "ickiness."
I'm still not really at peace with it.
When I was at that first terrible agency job I spent loads of time researching old ads I liked. I realized I liked a lot of them and they were meaningful to me. A pattern emerged and a fondness for commercial jingles was revealed. I had no idea I contextualized so much of my childhood and adolescence via songs written for consumer packaged goods.
Freedent gum. It "takes the stick out of gum." Jhirmack shampoo. "She's got Jhirmack bounce back beautiful hair." Dino-Riders action figures. "Harness the power of Dino-Riders."
I found a mentor at that agency. One day I emailed him with a link, "Remember this song?"
Salon Selectives. "Choose to be your most beautiful."
"Remember it?" he asked, "I wrote it."
Ladies and gentlemen, I had found the byline. Here, the man who had of late spent most of his waking hours by my side turned out to be the author of perhaps the most influential commercial jingle of my lifetime.
Here's another iteration.
(This one is even better, but for some dumb reason it won't let me preview it for you. Whatever.)
Our professional relationship and his mentorship of me become, suddenly, something more powerful. For one thing it answered the question, Who wrote this? More importantly he became a part of a memory.
That jaunty tune was really a tale of my older sister scooping those coordinating shampoo and conditioner bottles off the store shelves and into our shower, filling the air with its fresh apple scent. I was forbidden to touch these products. She would smell my hair to make sure I didn't steal a squirt. That stuff was coveted. Having Salon Selective products was as much a beauty solution as it was a story of sibling rivalry.
It was strange to think of my coworker stitched into that long continuum of jingle-listening and sisterly fighting. It was strange to think of him as a person who was with me unseen for all that time. If we weren't already so chummy together I would have fallen mute, into an awkward silence of awestruck reverence. That's how much this song meant.
I sang it for years. When I glimpse the bottle on the shelf (it is still available in certain Walgreens drug stores) I still sing it.
And the thing is, love this song.
I decided some time around then that writing a smart commercial jingle could not surpass much else in this life. Some of you want marriage and kids. Me, I fancy a song about chewing gum. Last summer I was dating a guy in advertising. An accomplished copywriter. I told him how much I loved jingles. He told me to forget about it, "jingles are dead." Now, so is that relationship.
A dear friend and respected coworker shared with me the theme for Chewels gum a couple of weeks ago. A gem of a ditty from 1984. While I'm not sure how this managed to miss my radar as a kid, I can say now that I wish it was available on iTunes for purchase. This song is so fucking amazing I haven't closed its YouTube tab on my browser at work for weeks. If I could play it on repeat, I would.
Did you even just see that?!!
I took my mom to meet my old college professor and friend a few weeks ago. We sat on his couch singing our favorite theme songs. He sang us this catchy number, for the Castro Convertible:
Then there was a duet from his wife and my mom, for Fritos corn chips. "Fritos make lunch munch better."
And so I want to know, what are your favorite commercial jingles?
The jig is up.
I know you've got them.