I could blame my worrying radio obsessions on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I could blame sonic alchemist and all-round wireless genius Kenny Everett. Or the Electric Light Orchestra. Or Jeff Wayne for his musical version of The War of the Worlds. I could blame Orson Welles for scaring the world witless with his radio adaption. Or I could blame electronics giant Philips.
Or Phirrips, as they were known in a radio ad voiced and produced by comics Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones. I’m not blaming them because of their ad, but because of their ingenious invention the Philips Cube.
This was pure genius. A box-shaped TV with an in-built AM/FM radio, a cassette recorder and a timer. This meant I could set it up to automatically record the jingles from Music Box, the satellite music channel rebroadcast overnight by Yorkshire Television. I could get it to record the IBA Engineering Announcements along with it’s accompanying introductory ditty before heading into the rarely-heard 3-minute version of the Good Morning Britain theme. However, my first love was radio jingles.
Whilst most kids were making illegal hits compilations by hacking Bruno Brookes out of the Radio 1 Top 40, I was chopping out the music. I was too impatient to listen to 3 minute songs, and that’s more or less the case today. Unless it’s a station song or a groovy traffic bed.
At 9 years old, I had no concept of the importance of these mini-songs from a branding or commercial perspective, but they’d nonetheless got me hooked, and thanks to their catchy logos, I’d always know what station I was listening to, even if the singers had their mouths taped up. What better a testimonial could the music imaging salesman need?
At London’s Chrysalis Radio, I write and produce commercials for clients big and small. Some of them thrive on powerful language; others on memorable music. My musical pitch almost inevitably makes some mention of Intel (“DINGGGGGG… dum dum dum dum!”). Apart from IT geeks, how many people actually know what a Centrino, Core Duo, Pentium M, Pentium D with Viiv technology or even a plain old processor is? Exactly. But they all know what Intel (“DINGGGGGG… dum dum dum dum!”) is… They make your computer! HP don’t make your PC. Dell don’t make it. Intel (“DINGGGGGG… dum dum dum dum!”) do. Why do we think Intel (“DINGGGGGG… dum dum dum dum!”) have their own jingle and are therefore clearly bigger and more important than unassuming HP (pause) and Dell (quiet please). One could argue that the phenomenal success of Intel (“DINGGGGGG… dum dum dum dum!”) can be attributed to their catchy little 5 note melody, and Intel (“DINGGGGGG… dum dum dum dum!”) won’t let us forget it.
It’s the same with the radio ident. WNBC, Z100, BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2, WABC, Heart 106.2, LBC, WPLJ; stations with memorable logos that we can’t get our of heads. The list is really endless (to coin a phrase)! What really impresses me with music imaging is its ability to take a simple musical phrase and make it do so much in a huge variety of styles and situations. One logo could equal 10 themes plus 10 ramps, 20 stagers, 30 shots, 10 super-shots, plus traffic, weather, headlines, news, top of hour, what’s on, community action and sports cut. By my reckoning, that’s 88 different ways in which to use one quirky little tune, and that’s without the alts, the subs, the a cappellas and the instrumental mix-outs. Even Intel (“DINGGGGGG… dum dum dum dum!”), with their one solitary jingle, have adapted it over the years.
Driving around the UK, you’ll hear so many stations playing the same music, with similar formats and the usual happy-go-lucky, enthusiastic presenters. Outside breakfast, on-air talent is often stifled, so what do you have left to make one station stand out from the next one along the dial?
Some years ago, the anti-jingle arrived on these shores. Sweepers were the order of the day as programmers tired of quirky 5-part Dallas harmonies. After all, why progress and expirement with a station’s sound when a bunch of zip, zap, (deep voice goes here) sweepers will do the trick for a fraction of the budget?
Thankfully we seem to have turned the corner, but there are still a few stations that continue to go jingle-naked. Apart from those where musical idents aren’t appropriate, these are the stations I choose to tune away from; not because I’m a jingle anorak, but because I like to feel confident in the station I listen to. I want it to be confident in itself. I want it to scream at me how utterly brilliant it is, so that when a crap tune is playing, I can feel confident that a great one is coming next.
If a personality-devoid manufacturer of computer precessors can get you to notice them, there’s really no excuse why the greatest entertainment medium in the world can’t. So to those jingle-opposed programmers, I just have one thing to say to convince you to spend on some top-notch musical (now sit up and take notice of this key word) branding: DINGGGGGG… dum dum dum dum!