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8.120798 - Commercial Grooves: Nostalgic Tracks from TV Adverts
Nostalgic Tracks From TV Adverts
Musical themes are now a time-honoured and institutionalised adjunct to TV advertising, and often as not the music played works only syncretically on the listener and may have only a subliminal, rather than a direct connection with the product on offer.Thus, in the modern world of sound bites our ears are constantly assailed by tunes as far-ranging as Beethoven’s 5th and La vie en rose, and all in the name of selling the most diverse range of goods and services. However, the vast back-catalogue of popular songs has proved a boon to advertisers and marketing strategists and tunes with catchy rhythms or humorous lyrics, or those which log instantly onto our nostalgic memory-cells, are particularly useful for homing in on mass-audiences, the sitting targets of our nightly soaps and other primetime screenings.
Our underlying emotions are what the advertisers are aiming at, and in the spheres of jazz and popular music it is primarily the rhythmic numbers, being the most easily recalled to mind, which are the most frequently favoured. Therefore, as Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren’s “Jeepers Creepers” has already been suitably applied to the marketing of both cars and cosmetics and Jack Yellen and Milt Ager’s “Happy Feet” to Clarks’ shoes, Mama Don’ Wan’ No Peas An’ Rice An’ Coconut Oil now provides a rhythmically apposite accompaniment to the rustle of a chip-pan (albeit the ad fades Jimmy Rushing’s vocal before the less suitable punchline ‘Jus’ a bottle o’ brandy handy all the day!’). And currently, whilst anticipating even more in the future,we might easily cite many other examples in like vein. Tico Tico, for example (a foot-tapping Latin-American tongue-twister first heard in Esther Williams’ 1943 film vehicle Bathing Beauty, and a contemporary hit for both Ethel Smith and the Andrews Sisters) is now applied, however obliquely, both to Sainsbury’s Extra Legally and Whiskas cat food (Hold Tight, with its seafood reference and delivered by the irrepressible Fats Waller, also befits the latter item) and Teddy Bears’ Picnic (that twee yet timeless 1930s-vintage staple of ‘Children’s Favourites’) will strike a chord in viewers young and old, whether home-video fanatics or not.
Similarly, I Yi Yi Yi Yi (conjuring images of Latin-American diva Carmen Miranda and that famous hat with the bananas) sounds in tune with breakfast cereal and Tiger Rag (an Original Dixieland Jazz Band number from 1917 famously revived in 1931 by the Mills Brothers) is racy enough for a Vauxhall Astra, while Stompin’ At The Savoy evokes the passé stylishness of pre-War cruise-ship ballrooms and In The Mood (the Glenn Miller Orchestra’s ‘most gargantuan’ 1939 best-selling theme-tune) may yet, on account of its rarefied if unspecified nostalgia, be applied to other products apart from Radion Plus,Walkers Doritos and Anchor Butter.
In a broader sense, the more confidential, romantically inspired gems of popular song – the slower numbers – also provide good foil to advertising, particularly when sung by such revered and instantly remembered names as Ella, Marlene or Fred and a prime example of this phenomenon is Whispering Grass, a nostalgic old number made famous by The Inkspots (it was a US No.10 hit in 1940 for the world-renowned harmony quartet), which may on account of the intimacy it suggests serve to rekindle a market for the telephone, even though email is a generally cheaper, if more impersonal, option.
For voices from the past, quite apart from the personas of the stars themselves, instantly conjure personal memories to those old enough, or sufficiently long-in-the-tooth to make the connection, whereas younger, less knowing, victims may still be hooked by the unalloyed nostalgia of an old mono recording (however tidied by technology) to sit up and take notice. That music in this category has so far been utilised in TV advertising with a certain success is beyond question, although its extent might be difficult to quantify. But among those which must so far have made considerable impact are Let’s Face The Music And Dance (with it’s memorable opening line ‘There may be trouble ahead’), Someone To Watch Over Me (this 1926- vintage George and Ira Gershwin classic hit from Oh, Kay! is perhaps more generally recalled by Ella’s 1950s Gershwin Album version) and Falling In Love Again (first introduced by Dietrich in her 1930 film The Blue Angel) – all of which are plausibly suited by association to their respective subjects of financial services or healthcare. And whatever the subject, the original Trenet version of La mer invariably adds a nostalgic timbre which seems to predate this 1946 recording.
Peter Dempsey, 2004
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