By Bob Andelman
(Originally published in Maddux Report, 1989)
Some might say that jingle writing isn’t an art, it’s just advertising.Maybe. But there is a certain melodical, redundant appeal to a well-done jingle that is at once irrepressible and unrelenting, two qualities usually assigned to our finest pop arts.
Bay area jingle writers concentrate on regional and local businesses. Sometimes their stuff becomes ingrained, as Mary Lind Jorn’s words did in Tampa Electric Company (TECO)’s commercials for the heat pump. Jorn got the heat pump assignment a couple years ago from the Bozell/Ellis, Diaz advertising agency. Searching for inspiration, she heard the music from a Polar Beer spot the agency prepared but never used. Jorn re-wrote the lyrics and wound up with two seasonal versions:
HEAT PUMPS WARM YOU UP
WHEN THE COLD WINDS BLOW;
YOU CAN STAY WARM
WITHOUT SPENDING MUCH DOUGH.
HEAT PUMPS COOL YOU DOWN
WHEN THE DAYS ARE SO HOT;
YOU CAN STAY COOL
WITHOUT SPENDING A LOT.
As anyone who listens to the radio knows, the jingle has gotten a lot of use with TECO. “The client liked it; it seemed to be effective,” according to Bill Diaz, who handles the TECO account for Bozell/Ellis, Diaz. “We’re entering the fourth campaign cycle using that jingle. It’s still got plenty of life in it.”
“With the heat pump,” says Jorn, “we had a simple message. We wrote a simple lyric that expressed that.”
Jeff Arthur, Tampa Bay’s “King of Jingles,” has written words and music for AMC Theaters, Anheuser-Busch, Eastern Airlines, Sun Bank, (“THUMBS UP, THE SUN IS SHINING, BRIGHTER EVERYDAY … SUN BANK, THE BRIGHT WAY TO BANK”) the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, Wendy’s and many shopping malls in the Tampa Bay area. He has done crematories (“NECRON CREMATION DOES OUR PART, BY LEAVING LASTING MEMORIES IN YOUR HEART … WHEN CREMATION IS THE CHOICE YOU NEED, NECRON TRIBUTE ™ HANDLES IT TENDERLY .. IT’S BEST TO PLAN AHEAD YOU’LL SEE, MAKE THINGS EASY ON YOUR FAMILY”) and passed on escort services. But Mary’s Bonding Service, now there is a dilly of a ditty.
“Mary gets bail bonds for people who get in trouble,” explains Jeff Arthur, one-time national recording artist turned jingle writer. “She has a really good reputation as a grandmotherly person when you get in trouble.”
So this is what he came up with a few weeks ago for the Pinellas Park business, sung in the mellow, folksy style of James Taylor:
SOMETIMES THINGS DON’T GO AS PLANNED;
THAT’S WHY MARY’S THERE.
MARY’S GOT A WAY OF BONDING
THAT SHOWS HOW MUCH SHE CARES.
SO WHEN YOU NEED A LITTLE HELP,
CALL YOUR OLD FRIEND MARY.
MARY’S BONDING AGENCY, 571-H-E-L-P.
As the tape of Mary’s jingle plays, Arthur bounces around Studio B, laughing at the humor he hears in his own lyrics. He describes the ideal scenario of effectiveness for this commercial: “Can you imagine a cop, driving with a guy handcuffed in the back of his car, and the cop is singing, ‘Call your old friend Mary, 571-H-E-L-P.’?”
Arthur is laughing … all the way to the bank.
Don’t get the wrong idea: production of jingles is not a major industry on Florida’s west coast. It is, however, a clever, often hysterically funny medium requiring highly specialized talents. Not every copywriter in an ad agency can write a good jingle. That’s why most echo from Jeff Arthur Productions in Clearwater and a small but growing coterie of independent writers working at home or in studios no larger than a broom closet.
“I think Jeff Arthur does more straight jingle work than anyone else,” says Tom Morris, studio manager of Morrisound Studios in Tampa. “Jeff is kind of the jingle king around here.”
Jingles are 60-second musical dervishes that attempt to sell products and services with catchy lyrics, some rhyming, some funny. “It’s a little epic, only 60 seconds long,” says writer Howard Kleinfeld. “You have to make your point and get out.”
“People have a tendency to think of jingles as cute little things,” says Arthur. “Music is the soul of your advertising copy.”
JEFF ARTHUR audio excerpt: “Whenever I call a client and read lyrics, I say you have to understand, it’s not going to be the same without music. When you put your words to music, they becomes 400 times more memorable than the spoken word.”
Work done locally is typically assigned by out-of-town clients and advertising agencies. Jingle work that originates here is commonly farmed out to Atlanta, Miami, Orlando and New York, which accounts for the narrow marketplace.
“In advertising, there seems to be this mindset that, ‘We can’t do this in our hometown,’” says Morris. Morrisound is one of many Bay area studios doing technical jingle production; it is also home to two independent jingle writers, Kent Smith and Lex Macar.
When the Tampa-based advertising agency of Bozell/Ellis, Diaz needs a jingle, it sends the business out of town.
“I guess there’s not enough people doing it here,” says agency president Bill Diaz. “It’s a very competitive business. Maybe the reason we feel more comfortable going out of market is (the work) is not as mature here. There’s people doing good work, but it’s not that mature.” Diaz adds that with multi-million-dollar accounts, he can’t afford to take chances on untested talent. “I think Jeff Arthur does a pretty good job. (He is) probably the best here. He seems to have a style about him that is recognizable; therefore you have to see if his style will suit what you’re trying to get.”
Arthur, noting that only 20 percent of his company’s work is derived from local sources, believes Diaz and others simply don’t appreciate the creative and technical talent available to them in the Bay area.
“People here have not yet taken full advantage of local broadcast production quality,” he says. “There’s a great selection of quality (radio and television) stations but what they’re running on those stations is not given the thought it should be. They are buying radio and television and, because the costs are high for broadcast time, they are taking it away from their production quality. I say, run less time with a creative, professional piece, rather than more time with something of less quality.”
Jingles are meant to be sung. The words alone aren’t as emotional and jarring in print advertising unless the music has been working for a long time. With an established jingle — such as Chevrolet’s “Heartbeat of America” — when it’s tag line is printed, it should trigger the reader’s memory to the sound of the jingle.
Reading jingles here, in print, for example, cannot possibly convey the bubbly, infectious elements found in the best jingles. It’s not the message in jingles as much as it is the way the message is delivered: putting a sales pitch to music is a kinder, gentler way of reaching an audience.
“If music didn’t work,” says Arthur, “you wouldn’t have 97 percent of all major advertisers using it. I guarantee you, McDonalds and Coke know what the hell they’re doing.”
“The jingles you hear that are bad have everything thrown in,” says Jorn. “They’re print copy that people sing. You just can’t set everything to music and figure that’s going to do it. A jingle has to catch the essence of your message. You use phrases you wouldn’t use in print.”
What would “Oh, What a Feeling! Toyota” or “Welcome to Miller Time” be without music? asks Arthur. “Whenever I call a client and read lyrics, I say you have to understand, it’s not going to be the same without music. When you put your words to music, they becomes 400 times more memorable than the spoken word.”
And if anyone could speak authoritatively on that subject, it’s Jeff Arthur. At 37, his name is synonymous with jingles after seven years in Tampa Bay, 18 years in advertising and a few more in a recording group, Arthur, Hurley & Gottlieb. His lobby walls are covered with awards; there are two Clio Award statuettes in his private office. Between the Clearwater facility and a new office in Raleigh, N.C., he keeps very busy.
“I went to Raleigh last week and I got nine jingle (assignments). I’ve already got 25 running there,” he says.
Jeff Arthur Productions is the largest producer of music for shopping malls (“I’M FEELING TYRONE TERRIFIC, BUT TO BE MUCH MORE SPECIFIC, YOU’LL FEEL TERRIFIC, TYRONE SQUARE MALL”) in the country, owing to a longtime association with the DeBartolo Corp. “That’s a huge source of our income,” according to Arthur. His company also does a lot of business with furniture stores. Arthur’s company created the familiar music used nationwide by AMC Theaters (“THERE IS A DIFFERENCE YOU CAN SEE / THERE IS A DIFFERENCE WITH AMC”) and the theme songs for Super Bowl XVIII, “Be a Super Host” (“IF THEY LOVE US WHEN THEY LEAVE US, THEY’LL BE BACK”), and the Tampa Bay Bucanneers (“HEY, HEY, HEY, WE’RE THE BUCANNEERS”).
After several years spent establishing himself in Tampa Bay, Arthur says he’s just now starting to see a payoff.
“People don’t understand the incredible expense it takes to do all the commercials and keep a studio open seven days a week,” he says. “You spend 95 percent of your time selling the product and five percent creating it.”
Most recently, Arthur was commissioned by the Defrain Stemm advertising agency to write music for Larry’s Olde Fashioned Ice Cream Parlours.
“We wrote the copy,” says Vivek Rao, director of production for Defrain Stemm. “But he made enough changes that it almost became a Jeff Arthur original. It was just beautiful. I was so happy I’m going back to him with another commercial.”
Arthur often lifts a style from a familiar pop artist, according to former employees. “He used to put on the top of every spot ‘a la Wendy’s’ or ‘a la Coke,’” says one. Not that he denies it. A mall in Texas wanted its jingle to sound like Paula Abdul, a singer who is currently selling a lot of dance-oriented records. Arthur reproduced the rhythm track from one of her songs and gave it a new but similar melody to satisfy his client.
“Jingle writers aren’t ripping off pop performers,” he says, bristling. “Because everything that’s been done has been done before. It’s how well you do it. It’s having an attitude in your music that’s contemporary with the feeling you want to achieve.”
Mary Lind Jorn, 36, works as a freelancer out of her home in Hyde Park and maintains a loose partnership with Rayna Lancaster in Two Writers/No Waiting. The former SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE reporter coined the phrase “the un-newspaper” for SUNRISE, the CLEARWATER SUN’s twice-weekly entertainment tabloid. It was a situation when a jingle was desired by the client but was not the best way to sell the product.
“The agency called me because they liked the heat pump (jingle),” says Jorn. “I re-lyriced ‘Surfin’ Safari.’ But I had a problem because I could not figure how we were going to sing ‘The Un-newspaper.’”
In the search for schtick, Jorn received a funny message on her telephone answering machine and the offbeat, topical answering machine relationship of Rollo the Nerd and Jasmine the Yuppie was born. “A lot of people say, ‘I want a jingle.’ Sometimes it’s just not the right thing for them,” says Jorn. “You really can’t sell a very complicated product with a jingle. Jingles are reserved for products where people already know what they are.”
One of Jorn’s favorite gimmicks is to rewrite the lyrics of once-popular songs to make a connection with a product. That’s why she initially tried to fit SUNRISE to “Surfin’ Safari.” “I’ll go through old music books looking for a lyric, something that triggers memory banks,” she says. “I like ‘Surfin’ Safari’ because of the familiarity of the era. (It) takes you back to when you were 18, cruising down the road.”
Writers have to be cautious in balancing the best way to sell a product with demonstrating how clever they are or how wide-ranging their vocabulary is.
“You’re not writing literature; it’s business,” she says. “If you’re just doing puns and plays on words, you’re taking the easy way out. If you can find a cliche and it works for you, that’s the best way.”
Don Poole, an engineer at Ron Rose Studios in Tampa, moonlights as a jingle writer and composer. The 27-year-old relies heavily on the memory of a Macintosh computer to give him the power of a studio orchestra.
“Musicians hate guys like me, who uses computers,” says the author of jingles for WFLA Radio, Cellular One, Charter Hospital, the New York Daily News and 3M. “A lot ofjingle writers are using it. I can use a trumpet as a lead instrument; if a client doesn’t like it, I can change with the push of a button.”
The best-known of Poole’s work is probably what he wrote for WTSP TV-10:
WATCH THE NEWS EVERY DAY
BECAUSE WE’RE IN TOUCH WITH TAMPA BAY.
WHEN YOU THINK OF NEWS,
THINK OF 10.
“It’s sort of repetitious,” concedes Poole, “but that punchline — ‘Think of 10′ — that hits home.”
If Jeff Arthur rules the Bay area’s jingle fiefdom, Howard Kleinfeld and Kent Smith are his rock ‘n’ roll princes. Both are graduates of the Arthur jingle mill, grateful for the experience but anxious to make their own marks.
Kleinfeld, 31, grudgingly relinquished a career as a rocker to pursue a lucrative, rising reputation as a different kind of jingle writer.
“I try to make my jingles sound like songs,” says the director of On The Air Productions in St. Petersburg. “Jeff played a tape for me about how a jingle evolves. It was really well done. But that’s not the way I work. I sit down and play like a real rock ‘n’ roll guy. I play loud — REAL loud.”
A jingle by Howard Kleinfeld sounds completely different than a Jeff Arthur jingle.
For a frenetic, high-energy track created for Orlando-based Ron Jon Surf Shops (“WE’RE NOT ONE OF MANY / WE’RE ONE OF A KIND”), Kleinfeld took his inspiration from new wave British rocker Thomas Dolby. “I wanted to match the flavor of their billboards (which feature cartoon images illustrated with bright, neon colors) with the sound.” The music is so convincing, the writer plans to use a longer version in a song. “It doesn’t sound like a jingle,” he says. “When we present something like this, they’re blown away.”
The first jingle Kleinfeld wrote was for Thoroughbred Music in Tampa. Many of his clients come from the Orlando area, including a nightclub called Hollywood Nights (“THESE ARE THE NIGHTS TO REMEMBER”); Central Florida Magazine; Luigi B.G. Pizza Factory; Shoppes at Olympia Place; and St. Luke’s Cataract and Intraocular Lens Institute in Tarpon Springs.
For Luigi B.G., Kleinfeld created the kind of schticky, Italian tune he might have written under Arthur’s aegis:
COME IN TO EAT
A PIZZA TREAT …
HERE’S WHAT WE GOT
FOR NOT A LOT.
“That’s a REAL jingle,” says Kleinfeld. “I like doing that. It’s a real challenge because I’m not familiar with Italian folk music.”
Kleinfeld has found himself in the position of having to redirect clients, as he did with the Sea Market, a seafood restaurant. “They said, ‘Make it sound like a Red Lobster commercial.’ I said, ‘Why? You want people to think of Red Lobster when they hear your ad?’ It takes time to build a good rep. And you’ve got to be aggressive.”
Kleinfeld is learning to be more aggressive in selling his own product; he’ll mount his first direct mail campaign this summer.
Kent Smith, proprietor of SoundSmith Productions in Tampa, began composing music at the age of seven. He has spent time in bands, but never saw where his talents would take him until Jeff Arthur was a guest speaker in one of his classes at USF in 1980.
“He said, ‘Not everybody can write jingles,’” recalls Smith. “I said, ‘I can.’ I started working for him a week later.”
After two years in Arthur’s employ, Smith moved to North Carolina for a time. He advertised nationally and attracted a loyal stable of clients who have stuck with him over the years. He does or has done work for: Flama Cola (a Puerto Rican version of Pepsi, only spicier); Carolina Circle Mall in N.C.; Four Seasons Realty in St. Paul, Mn.; Fresh Market in North Carolina; and Belk Lindsey.
One of his most amusing aural jingles, for Sheraton Hotels’ Charlie Goodnight Restaurants, won an Addy Award:
ROUND UP YOUR HEARTIEST APPETITE
AT (Sound of a whip cracking) CHARLIE GOODNIGHT.
BEST OF THE WEST
COOKED DAY AND NIGHT
CHUCK WAGON FOOD IS DYNAMITE (SOUND OF AN EXPLOSION).
Smith, 31, says his greatest thrill came this spring when a promotional ditty he wrote for WTVT TV-13 aired during a commercial break in the Grammy Awards. “I thought — ‘My music made it to the Grammys!’”
Despite recognition and plaudits for their work, neither Smith nor Kleinfeld are gaining new business or recognition as fast as they would like for their jingle work.
“To be a successful jingle writer you have to have a sales force,” says Smith, who works alone and relies on word-of-mouth and referrals. “That’s something Jeff has done well. That, and getting his name out.”
Perhaps the most striking contrast between Arthur and his graduates is their studios. Arthur has a large, traditional recording facility with a baby grand piano, soundproof glass, two production studios and a full staff. Smith runs SoundSmith Productions from a room the size of a closet with keyboards and recording equipment stacked from floor to ceiling; Kleinfeld operates On The Air Productions in a spare room of his home. Smith and Kleinfeld are one-man-bands, writing, producing and even performing their own work. (Kleinfeld does have a partner in Orlando, Tim Coons, who acts as salesman and helps polish the finish product.) Another difference: personal computers. Smith has stored thousand of digitized instrument sounds, from synthesized strings to saxophones, on a Macintosh Plus.
“The Mac is librarian for everything I do,” he says. “When I first started out people said, ‘Those are strings?’”
Smith’s computer didn’t come easy. It wasn’t just a case of saving up to buy it or taking out a loan. He earned it through his work. It seems that sometimes, jingle writing requires more than just a fertile imagination; occasionally it calls for a mathematical sense of meter. At least that’s what it took Smith to write his Addy award-winning theme for “Carolina Biological Supply Computer Store”:
IF COMPUTERS ARE YOUR GAME
AND YOU’RE LOOKING FOR THE NAME
OF THE BEST DEAL AROUND FOR SURE,
TRY CAROLINA BIOLOGICAL SUPPLY COMPUTER STORE.
“They wouldn’t let me shorten the name or anything,” says Smith, still amazed he accomplished the job. “That’s how I got my computer. They figured anybody that could sell a name that long deserved it.”
Copyright 2012 Will Eisner: A Spirited Life by Bob Andelman