Thirty Thousand Streets

Friday, May 29, 2009

Radio Advertising

Radio Advertising. Annoying: probably pretty effective.

I'm working at the minute, with all that entails, including listening to an office radio. And this week, the slightly tepid pop selection comes courtesy of Absolute FM who, in their favour, have a policy of not playing the same tune twice in a day*.

The same can't be said of advertising unfortunately, and on commercial radio my experience seems to suggest far fewer subscribers buying slots – compared to the pluralistic frenzy of the internet or TV – with the result that the same five or so radio ads get some seriously heavy caning throughout any random eight-hour sample.

Radio advertising feels odd to me. My initial thoughts upon getting reacquainted were that it represented some kind of extant bunker of purely jingle-led promotion, sticking to its guns on the airwaves like packets of Japanese soldiers hiding out on Pacific islands long after World War 2 ended. But no, generally all the ads are re-purposed versions of TV campaigns – just lacking any visual context (one, a Subway ad, features a Peter Kayesque 'talking pocket' which I'd never have garnered from the radio) Even so, the focus of radio ads does seem to be the twee, catchy little tunes.

On the plus side, this relative lack of sophistication seems quite endearing, hearkening back to days when the marketing mensch weren't preoccupied with trying to enslave the latest bit of social networking apparatus to their own dark ends. But on the downside it does mean you're probably going to be subjected to some of the most insanely irritating tuneage since the last Christina Aguilera single. Irritating, but it must be said, catchy, for these sung refrains are insidiously compelling – like a kind of mnemonic mind-worm that burrows into your brain (think the slug things in the Star Trek film 'Wrath of Khan') – and they stay there!

I can still remember jingles from my childhood, in fact. Who could forget classics such the Kellogs Bran flakes ad, for instance?

"Theeeey're tasty tasty very very tasty." (etc)

Though when my brother bumped it to the forefront of my mental playlist whilst on holiday the other year, we were all at something of a loss to recall the product it originally centred around. Bacon? err, chips? dunno. And even though the accompanying images of the piece in question have largely faded from my memory, I can still vividly recall the song from a Mobil ad of my youth, that set the following lyrics to Gene Pitney's 24 Hours From Tulsa:

"Only 24 toasters from Scunthorpe,
Only 6 double beds from Torquay,
And I can’t decide if I will
Buy a diamond ring or a drill,
And if I want to
I can add to
My Premier Points with cash
If I haven’t driven enough!"

I think the line where the singer sums up the (exciting) quandary that the choice between a tool and a piece of jewellery elicits is pretty much automatic D&AD award-winning genius (well, maybe not). But still somehow captivating in its silliness, hey?. Old advertising is a heady garden of nostalgia though anyway – I recall with affection the ads that punctuated a crackly recording of Star Wars on VHS we watched to abstraction as kids, such as the Heineken one with the road-mender's sign in the rain, where the icon of the man slurps on a crisp lager, then with a flourish, transforms his spade into an umbrella (that was when Heineken was 3%, mind. God knows what he'd do now – probably fall asleep.)

But I digress. The main reason I'm writing all this is that the last few days I've been subjected to a Muller corner ad that uses the tune from Nina Simone's 'I Got Life', only behind some most unfeasibly inane wordplay I've ever heard. It's basically a choir of people, young and old, taking turns to insert their favourite Muller flavour into the "I've got my" format, and the net result is truly distracting in its stupefying idiocy. It starts something like this:

"I got got my cherry, got my berry! got my biscuit, got my crunch!"

then meanders off through some other flavours, (a child cheeps "I got my blueberries!", discordantly) before the cherry girl triumphantly reiterates that she's 'got her cherry', and the whole thing ends.

I've been hearing this about five times a day (at least) the last fortnight, and it has the kind of nauseating, delirium inducing effect otherwise only legally obtainable off herbal-high counters in Camden. Annoyingly, it's habit forming though, constituting an itch my brain seeks to scratch through involuntary repetition: I'll be pootling round my kitchen, say, and suddenly catch myself starting to hum "got my cherr" before I come to with a start and give myself a mental 'dry slap'.

It's brutally effective stuff. And I could envision myself happily pounding my own head to mush in order to escape extended repetition of this particular ditty, but my last word word almost certainly be "M U L L E R", spelled out in morse code and clumps of brain as my head beat a wet, red tattoo against the wall, probably leaving something much like a Muller yoghurt and topping smeared there, more's the irony.

But seriously, who writes these things? I'm trying to imagine, and the only mental picture popping in there is of a cross between Andy Warhol and Nosferatu hunched behind a mixing desk in a post-production house in Soho, giggling maniacally between bites of a Pret butty. I'm evoking an evil genius here, but it actually does sound like quite a laugh (unless you have to take it seriously).

Anyway. That's that off my chest. Any jingles that got you reaching for a rusty nail to scratch out the bit of your brain containing it? c'mon friends, share my pain...

*apart from some competition they're running at the minute


Anonymous said...

I actually like that advert as my husband and I have a VERY personal joke about the 'blueberrieeeeeees!' bit, but I completely hate hate hate the 'If I ruled the world' adverts for - Tmobile? Or other mobile network. They're not even fun, they're so boring it makes me want to cry.

mikumog said...

I suppose there is a universe of irritating adverness which has tormented me over the years, but one which sticks with me is that frosties kid singing a loathsome song about how 'they're gonna taste great' The ad itself was a disaster and was quickly pulled, shortly followed by a few genius youtube edits such as

mountainear said...

Yep, from exactly 31 years ago:

'Goggles for girls, Goggles for guys,
Did anything more wonderful happen to eyes?'

Sunglasses in case you were interested.

The Eyechild said...

@ Anon

I see... I vaguely recall the T-Mobile ad, quite nondescript if I remember correctly. Orange do some of the pound-for-pound most pretentious mobile phone advertising, I think.

@ Mikumog

Pretty terrible. The rhyming's not much cop either: "I can hear the sound of Frosties hitting me plate? Sorry pal, I'm not going to listen seriously to anyone who eats Frosties off a plate.

I'm amused by all the myths surrounding the Frosties kid on the internet – eg he got beaten up twice and his mum got shot. People really had it in for dude...

@ Mountainear

For goggles? or glasses? I'm intrigued?

Anonymous said...

Will it be chips or jacket spuds
Will it be salad or frozen peas
Will it be mushrooms
Fried onion rings
We'll have to wait and see

Hope it's chips, it's chips
We hope it's chips, it's chips

The Eyechild said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Eyechild said...

@ Anon

Yeah, that one was pretty good!

Birdseye Steakhouse Grills...

Has anyone seen the new BT ad with Kris Marshall in, incidentally? y'know, the 'Adam and Jane' series )who're kind of a Kenco Coffee couple for the broadband and phone service provider) I presume they're getting married, which is at least what I can intuit from their radio ads where 'Adam' sounds incredibly smug about having broadband from BT, against some acoustic guitar chords pilfered from Nick Drake.

radio ads said...

Radio ads, jingles never been so effective, they always remain the source to irritation :)

Zeno Cosini said...

The shittest advert ever made, in my humble opinion, was one for the Ford Ka which ran during the 1998 World Cup. It didn't have a jingle as such - there was a Brazilian-accented voiceover that mused rhetorically, "If Ka made football boots, what would they be like?" And then we saw a guy kicking a ball at a crudely-costumed "robot" goalkeeper. The ball goes through the chest of the goalkeeper, leaving a neat circular hole, and winds up in the back of the net. The reason it's stayed in my brain all these years is the sheer yammering idiocy of the concept we're being invited to indulge: "Buy this car because if the people who made it designed football boots they'd be so good they'd enable you to kick the ball so hard it'd go through the chest of this postulated robot goalkeeper (and he's made of metal)."

jack said...

Yeah!! Radio Advertising is an old term that is beneficial for business when applied properly.

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