Archive for the ‘History’ Category



April 7, 2008

After much work, I have come to the conclusion that this is not a feasible topic of research (particularly at the stage I am at).

As a result, I have halted all research here; I hope one day I will continue it.
Instead I have chosen another topic that looks into the guitar amplifier market. My new blog can be found at

Thanks for visiting! 


Advertising from radio to television

March 8, 2008


As mentioned in a previous post, radio had developed a system where programs were sponsored by advertisers. Consumers could express their gratitude by buying the product of the sponsor; thus keep the program on air.
This system proved so successful that the majority of the programs were created by the advertisers/advertising agencies. While advertisers controlled content, broadcasters provided the equipment and the knowledge for broadcasting.

When it came to television, nobody had a clue how it should be work. It was a new medium with no proven track record, no research, and no guidelines. Advertisers, who were very satisfied with their place in radio, baulked at venturing into television.
The only other people left who had the knowledge and money to enter this new medium were the radio broadcasters themselves (broadcasters such as NBC and ABC).

It was now up to the broadcasters to convince advertisers to join them, and that’s what they tried to do for the majority of 1939 – 1941. Many advertisers were curious, but still feared the uncertainty.

Then America entered the war… their society slowed to halt as all efforts were focused on helping the war.

Post-World War 2 saw a shift in ideology. Advertisers were asked to do their part help increase consumption. Without a doubt, this helped convince advertisers that they should try television as a new means of advertising.
Moreover, NBC announced in 1944 that their television network would function exactly as their radio network (sponsorship of programs).
The message was clear; Television can offer advertisers all the advantages they had heard about, and at the same time it is as reliable as radio.

It worked! More advertisers moved into television, and the medium prospered.

It is no wonder then that the techniques of radio advertising such as the jingle can be found in television.
Early television was run by radio men, working within the same system.

Further Reading:
Schwoch, J. (1990) ‘Selling the sight/site of sound: Broadcast advertising and the transition from radio to television’ in Cinema Journal, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Autumn, 1990), Pg. 55-66.
Taylor, T. D. (2003) ‘Music and advertising in early radio’ in ECHO, Vol. 5, Issue 2 (Fall 2003).


The “first” jingle & the practice of licensing

February 21, 2008


The “first” jingle was for/by General Mills’ Wheaties in 1926.
To download the mp3 of this jingle, click here. (Note, link takes you to a new page).
As the story goes, General Mills were ready to shut down the Wheaties brand due to poor sales. However they noticed spikes in sales figures in certain areas – the same areas where a song about Wheaties was being broadcast on radio.
This has then been considered to be the “first” jingle because it was created purely as a song to sell the brand, and it served no other purpose on the radio.

However as you can see from the quotation marks around “first”, there’s more to tell. It’s true that the Wheaties jingle was the first song created solely to sell (at least to our knowledge in the 20th century), but the idea is not new.
Prior to the Wheaties jingle, there were certain restrictions in the medium of radio which prohibited direct advertising (what the Wheaties jingle was). This forced brands to use new ways of advertising. One way was through sponsorship, and there were two types which relate to sonic branding.
The first was where a brand sponsors an orchestra to play music as part of the programming (here we have bands such as the Vick’s VapORub Quartet). Although this wouldn’t be branding in the strictest sense, it was a primitive form where where the choice of music reflected the brand (brand association).
The second form of sponsorship relates more to the evolution of the jingle. Again, brands couldn’t advertising directly yet, but they could sponsor a programme such as a radio serial with the stipulation that the theme song mention the brand name/product; This was basically product placement in the early 20th century.

So you see the Wheaties jingle wasn’t the first jingle, but it was the first to take the form of direct advertising….there’s even more though.

Another contender for the first radio jingle, is one from/by Oldsmobile. Oldsmobile premiered their jingle in the mid 1920s (roughly around the same time as Wheaties), however they had been using the same song since 1908 (pre-commercial radio). In the absence of radio, this song was sang by employees, and taught to consumers.Now surely this means that the Oldsmobile jingle should be considered the “first” jingle… well, yes and no.
You see, Oldsmobile had nothing to do with the creation of their jingle. It was a song written by Gus Edwards and Vincent Bryan in 1905 for their own purposes (back in a time when it was popular to give songs a narrative. The Oldsmobile brand is used as part of the narrative). A few years later in 1908, Oldsmobile caught wind of the songs popularity and decided to buy it off Edwards and Bryan.As a result, when compared to Wheaties, Oldsmobile didn’t have a jingle, they had one of the first licensed song in the history sonic branding.


The problem with history

February 20, 2008


In researching the history of how music has been used in branding I encountered a problem – How do I tell this story?
I could tell you the differences between a salesman shouting slogans in a marketplace during 17th century London, and Coca Cola’s “I’d like to teach the world to sing” (1971); however I would have a hard time telling you how the former evolved to the latter (if it did); or the cultural significance of both; or even how this all relates to story of sonic branding.
Not to mention like with any history, the more you discover, the more convoluted it gets.

To give myself some guidance I have borrowed tactics from a similar field: popular music theory. Tim Wall…
“First we should aim to examine moments in the history of music culture, but rather than choosing just those seen as significant through totalising theory, we should start with single moments and then seek to understand their significance.
Second, we should keep a sense of the mainstream and the margins, but we should seek to examine how they interact as discourses of musical culture and how they make each other meaningful at any particular moment.
Finally, we should be interested in the cultural material out of which a particular practice is built, but we should see this as more than a simple idea of musical roots, and instead as the musical and cultural repertoire that is available for particular music culture practices” (Wall, T., 2003, Pg.18).

It is simply not enough to search for key events in the history of music in branding on Google. I need to understand the pasts significance, and only then will I be able to look at the present, much less the future
This isn’t the only model I will adopt, but it is certainly relevant.

Perhaps this is a good starting point…
Salenoise: a timeline of music and advertising


Is there a difference?

February 19, 2008

Celebrity Jingles!
Why did I find the idea of the self proclaimed “world’s greatest rock band” (The Rolling Stones) singing a jingle for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies so hilarious?

yet I should be used to it as legitimate artists in music still participate in this practice today. For example, the Black Eyed Peas who wrote a special single for Pepsi.

Is it the presentation?
Perhaps singing the words “Rice Krispies” is just not *cool*. You need to sing those words without singing them, as the Black Eyed Peas so masterfully did, “People gather round, have a taste. Melodies all up in your face. We droppin that fluid and you know how we do it.”

Or maybe its just poor associations… particularly with hindsight.
Rolling Stones? = drugs, sex, and fags… not milk and rice krispies.