Jingle Houses Compete Against Coldplay

NEW YORK Jingle houses are singing the blues. Whereas musicians were regularly tapped to create proprietary music for TV and radio ads, today’s agencies are frequently leaving them out of the loop by licensing tracks from top and up-and-coming talent or using software tools to create their own music.

One need look no further than Apple, which is concurrently running iTunes ads featuring the mega-band Coldplay and MacBook Air ads with up-and-comer Yael Naim.

“There is a lot of circumventing of the musician in a lot of ways,” said Dave Cannon, director of interactive services at Moveo Integrated Branding, Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. “There are so many different ways to get music that wasn’t available before.”

From Iggy Pop to Led Zeppelin and the Beatles, it is now commonplace for major artists to look to licensing for extra cash and exposure. “It’s more possible than ever to approach published pop writers with a request to get them to work directly for an advertising agency,” said Keith D’Arcy, svp, music resources at EMI Music Publishing, New York.

Licensing deals also provide much-needed exposure for new artists. The Fratelli song “Flathead” received widespread play after it appeared in Apple’s iPod spots last year. Their album, Costello Music, went on to sell more than 144,000 copies in the U.S. market. Similarly, the song “Young Folks” by Peter, Bjorn and John was used in an AT&T spot that ran from April to October. The band’s album, Writer’s Block, sold more than 163,000 copies domestically.

“[Licensing] their songs gave these new ads national exposure that they might otherwise not have achieved,” said D’Arcy. “Sales were way above expectations ahead of release and the bands have now built up a healthy following in the U.S.”

Even established artists, like John Mellencamp and Jewel, have looked to advertising as a tool to promote new releases. Mellencamp’s song “Our Country” will be forever linked to the Chevy Silverado. Jewel wrote “Intuition” in 2003 specifically for Shick razors. Such deals, however, often require that agencies permit longer production times — and bigger budgets.

This is why some are opting to go low budget, using software tools like Apple’s GarageBand. It allows users with little or no musical background to build tunes by stacking and arranging prerecorded audio snippets. “Some agency creatives are just making their own music,” Cannon said. “So the jingle houses have trouble with that, and convincing people that using a [real] orchestra is better.”

That’s not to say the jingle houses are closing up shop. Sacred Noise, New York, has created numerous compositions, including the signature track for Bluefly.com’s “Airport” spot. That commercial launched during the year-end holidays.

JSM Music, New York, was hired to parody The Knack’s “My Sharona” for an ad campaign for the Mohegan Sun Hotel & Casino. “My Mohegan” ads were created by Kirshenbaum, Bond + Partners, New York.

Some brands are dusting off their old jingles to reconnect with lapsed consumers. Earlier this year, Alka-Seltzer concluded a national contest that sought to find an updated version of its classic “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is” jingle. Josh Anderson’s winning remake ran before the Super Bowl.

CBS, meanwhile, has plans to launch a new reality show this year called Jingles. Survivor producer Mark Burnett will look to real consumers to come up with catchy songs for their favorite brands.

“That audible jingle creates that connection between the brand and the melody for people,” said Cannon. “That’s better than a commercial pop song which might carry other associations like an old girlfriend or a time you went out and drank too much.”