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Jingle Sells


Wrigley's underwrites pop song, gives new meaning to term "commercial music".


Maybe it happened when you were sitting in traffic, flipping impatiently through FM stations. Or one dull afternoon as you sat in front of the TV. Whatever the case, you're not alone if you've ever wondered, What's more annoying, commercial ads or commercial radio?

But with news circulating that R&B singer Chris Brown's top 10 hit, "Forever", is actually an extended version of a Wrigley's Doublemint gum commercial, fans and critics of pop music can stop their guessing. Clearly, they're equally annoying - and one in the same.

In fact, Wrigley's has a whole lineup of pop stars ready to turn its jingles into hit singles. According to the Wall Street Journal, fellow R&B singer Ne-Yo will release a song inspired by the company's classic Big Red jingle, "Kiss A Little Longer". And Julianne Hough -- diva of Dancing With the Stars -- will release a country version of Juicy Fruit's "The Taste Is Gonna Move Ya".

Wrigley's isn't the first company to try adapting its jingles into actual songs. In 2003, McDonald's (MCD) asked Justin Timberlake to write and record a little number using its ubiquitous "I'm Lovin' It" ditty as the chorus. Timberlake obliged, but the song was never released.

Of course, TV commercials have come to rely on pop music. Nothing is stickier than a good hook. Remember when Burger King (BKC) commodified Modern English's "Melt With You"? Of course you do. Or how about when Microsoft (MSFT) capitalized on The Rolling Stones' classic, "Start Me Up", to advertise Windows? Thanks to the power of song, these are commercials you remember.

But the real message behind a given pop song and the product they've been selected to represent seldom go hand in hand. When Royal Caribbean International (RCL) decided to use Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" to showcase how much fun families can have on board, they conveniently left out the song's opening lyrics :

Here comes Johnny Yen again,
With the liquor and drugs,
And the flesh machine,
He's gonna' do another strip tease.
Hey man, where'd ya get that lotion?

Sounds like a slightly different kind of cruising.

Some companies avoid the brand inconsistency by just changing the lyrics to the songs. Often, this creates a reaction among audiences that varies between degrees of perplexity and sheer disgust. Take Papa John's (PZZA). They transformed the Go-Go's "We've Got the Beat" into the nauseating "We've Got the Meat." Pfizer, meanwhile, tranformed "Viva Las Vegas" into "Viva Viagra." If rolling over in that condition weren't painful, Elvis would be doing it in his grave.

If Wrigley's successful partnership with Chris Brown is any indication, it's only a matter of time before the line between song and jingle is completely blurred. Which forces you to consider: What kind of world do we live in when a little girl tugs at her mom's sleeve after hearing Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" and asks to buy some mascara.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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