Chili’s Brings Back Its ‘Baby Back’ Jingle, but the Lyrics Are Funkier Now

Rib ticklers for a slimmed-down menu

O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul’s first ads for Chili’s Grill & Bar break today, and they’ve got your baby back, baby back, baby back, baby back…

Aw, you know the damn “Baby Back Ribs” song. Now, you’ll be singing it all day.

An earworm since 1986, Chili’s jaunty jingle, composed by Guy Bommarito, gets its first airing since 2015, when it was used as the soundtrack for the casual dining chain’s 40th anniversary.

As always, the tune’s infuriatingly familiar rhythm will get your toes tapping (or set your teeth grinding, depending on personal taste). The words, however, have been tweaked in a series of 15-second spots as Chili’s goes for the funny (bone) to introduce a slimmed-down and refocused menu.

These days, the joint is bigger than just ribs, as we learn in the first two ads below:

Maybe take “self-actualization” off the menu. It’s a slow seller. (Just ribbing you, Chili’s.)

“While the famous jingle was always there, in the room and in our minds, the idea for a revival didn’t come as a flash,” agency CEO Tom O’Keefe tells AdFreak. “It started for us as just a musical mnemonic—the ‘Chili’s is back, baby, back!’ sing-out proclamation. We shared it with Chili’s as one of several other ideas, and I think everybody felt there was potential heat there. So we kept pushing until the jingle became the entire idea.”

Oh, by the way, Chili’s ribs are bigger now, too:

And if that wasn’t “ridic” enough for you, meatier burgers and fajitas round out the hit parade:

Quite a few classic commercial jingles have been revived or revised of late. Mr. Clean’s refresh and Nationwide’s reinterpretation spring to mind.

“Having a famous jingle is as valuable and rare to achieve as creating a hit record,” O’Keefe says. “For a brand, this is gold. And over time it just becomes more valuable—an ownable, well-loved equity that separates you from your competition as it continues to burn into the public conscience. And we’d argue that the reason we’re seeing more of this as trend is because it’s just that much more valuable today—something sticky to break through the ever-expanding universe of channels and messages.”

He’s right! It’s wedged deep inside, and it’s not budging any time soon.

Baby back, baby back, baby back… aargh!

Chili’s – Client
O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul – Agency
Matt Reinhard – Founder/CCO
Jen Bills – Creative Director
Dana Quercioli – Copywriter
Rachel Warner – Designer
Trevor Rose – Motion Designer
Scott Mitchell – Head of Production
Katie Johnson – Director of Production/Business Affairs
Charlie Ferraye – Producer
Manny Rodriguez – Food Photography
Man on Fire – Production Company
Alex Neuman – Director
Beacon Street Studios – Music
Whiskey & Bananas – Editorial
The Mill – Color

The Fans. The Brands. Social Good. The Future of Sports. Don't miss the upcoming Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts, a live virtual experience on Nov. 16-19. Early-bird passes available until Oct. 26. Register now

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.