Creating Catchy Radio and TV Commercial Jingles

Learn the Techniques for Writing and Selling Jingles to Advertising Companies

Young woman and man writing a song

Are you asking yourself as you read this, 'just what is a jingle?' A jingle, in advertising vernacular, is a catchy phrase or slogan, set to a cheerful tune. It ideally becomes associated with the product and consumers world-wide, the manufacturer hopes, will remember it and buy the product. Jingle writing is similar to songwriting, but the focus is obviously on marketing.  That being said, it is a definite plus if you have some basic songwriting skills.  

Here is an outline of how to write an effective jingle:

  1. Know the product: What are you trying to sell? A service? A product? A company? What does it do, provide or offer? Familiarize yourself with its benefits, capabilities, and distinction. What makes it superior to others of its kind? Do you want to focus on radio or TV commercials.

  2. Drill the name: The jingle must mention and repeat the specific name of the product or company and what it does. You want to ensure that the consumer remembers the name in conjunction with the type of product. If they repeat it, they are more likely to buy it. With a good jingle, the consumer may actually begin to call all products of that type by the trade name! For example, Kleenex tissues -- ever heard someone ask for a 'Kleenex?' You know that they mean tissue.

  3. Set your slogan to a tune: There is much evidence to show that we remember tunes better than mere words. That's why a jingle is generally much easier to remember than just a slogan. I can remember some from when I was young -- well, a looong time ago. It's usually the song that I remember. In fact, teachers often make songs to help students remember certain concepts.

    Your tune should be light and lively, set in an upbeat major key. The tempo should be quick and the rhythm snappy, like a march or a cheer. I tend to remember jingles that are witty or funny.

    If you use a well-known tune or song, the rights to the music must be listed as 'public domain.' Typically, after a given period of time (say,100 years), the tune becomes 'public domain' automatically. McDonald's used Beethoven's 'Fur Elise' in a commercial about 12 years ago, under the 'public domain' law.

  4. Use assonance (repetition of vowel sounds -- 'eat cheap') and alliteration (repetition of consonant sounds -- 'Lemon-lime'):  This makes it fun to sing!

  5. Choose strong words: Select action verbs, clear nouns and adjectives that stand out. Avoid overused, dull words. For example, a 'nice, fast car' becomes a 'smooth, speedy ride.'

  6. Use puns: Use a play on words to help the consumer remember the product. The pun makes use of homonyms, homophones and homographs: two words pronounced or spelled the same but with different meanings (like 'red' and 'read,' or 'ate' and 'eight'). For example, 'This sewing machine is "sew" superior!' 'Catzo is the purrfect cat food!'

  7. Use repetition: Hearing a name in relation to a product lodges it in the memory. The old cigarette commercial: 'Have a Lark, have a Lark, have a Lark today!' uses repetition.

  8. Use rhymes: This technique is very helpful. Rhyme the name and product or the name and a characteristic. Or make your jingle a rhyming phrase, like this: 'Have another Nutter-Butter peanut butter sandwich cookie!'

  9. Use onomatopoeia: This is a big word... It just means words that mimic sounds, like buzz, ring, clang, pop, etc.  Remember Alka-Seltzer: 'plop-plop, fizz-fizz oh what a relief it is?'

  10. Use hyperbole: Exaggerate in a funny or memorable way. York Peppermint Patty used this well in the commercials where people described feeling like 'an Olympic skier' or other cold sensations when they ate a York Peppermint Patty. 

  11. Use similes and metaphors: Compare the product to something that's totally unrelated to the product but gives the consumer a positive image and association ('You're in good hands with Allstate,' or 'April fresh Downy').  

    You can use this to make a 'negative simile' also. With this, you make a comparison suggesting that the product helps you avoid something (for teens, using a product and not being a nerd). This can be poetic and lyrical or silly and funny.

  12. Suggest a relationship: Develop a mental image between the product and a respected person, group of people, profession, or idea such as: 'Choosy Mothers Choose Jif.'
  13. List attributes: Write them into your song. Remember 'BK Whopper's 2 all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese on a sesame seed bun?' Nyquil has used the same technique.

  14. Use a combination: Chances are, you will use several of these advertising techniques together.
  15. Keep it simple: Review and revise; cut out any excess words that slow your jingle down or aren't really needed. Advertisers pay for everything and want their slogans to be direct.

  16. Keep it smooth: As you revise, clean up any sloppy wording. Repeat it to make sure it flows and isn't awkward in any way.

Jingles are the backbone of advertising! Though you can't plagiarize, you can get inspiration from the ones you love. Examine what works, and then let your creative juices flow and have fun! Your zest will show in your writing.


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