What Is a Radio Jingle?

Radio jingles are a form of radio imaging and sound branding used by radio stations and businesses to form an audio identity.  They’re short, crisp pieces of audio, could be just a tune or a mix of music, singing and voice. Typically lasting between 10 and 20 seconds when used by a radio station and 10-30 seconds when used by a brand to advertise on a radio. In this article we will look closer at commercial radio jingles.

Radio jingles may not be the answer for every brand, but get them right and people remember them for decades. We have put together memorable sonic branding examples here if you wanted to dive deeper into that world. What’s more, you may be surprised by just how quickly slogans can spread by people chatting about (and singing!) them. In addition by how cost-effective these snatches of sound are compared with other marketing tools. 

First Commercial Jingle Concepts

Guglielmo Marconi made the first wireless broadcast in the UK in June 1920, the BBC was formed in 1922 and by the middle of that decade, most Britons could tune in to BBC wireless programmes.

So it’s tempting to assume that jingles were born along with the radio itself. But, actually, there is some evidence that earlier models date as far back as Shakespeare’s day. In Elizabethan England, roving minstrels or musicians would entertain passers-by in the street. Many had a sponsor, a local trader who often asked the musicians to pen and perform a song about them – a very modern-sounding concept!

Some believe forms of this kind of audio advertising were around even earlier, in Ancient Greece. Meanwhile, the ‘one-a-penny, two-a-penny, hot cross buns’ chant, from medieval England, is considered an early jingle.

The History of A Radio Jingle

First Modern Commercial Radio Jingles

The very first actual radio jingle in our modern history to be broadcast is typically attributed to US food producer General Mills. Its catchy slogan for Wheaties (‘the best breakfast food in the land’), sung a cappella by the “Wheaties Quartet”, aired on Christmas Eve 1926. It was heard only in the Minneapolis-St Paul area, but sales in the Twin Cities subsequently soared. Success was replicated when nationwide airing of the jingle followed. Wheaties became the most popular cereal in the country almost overnight.

Other advertisers soon joined General Mills in recognising the worth of having a custom-made melody which made their brand memorable and unique. Pepsi Cola in the late 1930s made their own jingles, stressing its price (five cents, or a nickel), and the fact that it came in a 12-ounce bottle, famously stayed on the airwaves for years. In the same decade, radio jingles for Duz detergent, another US brand, repeated its name nine times in a 15-second spot.

War Decades and Jingles

Radio jingles helped recruit soldiers, and encouraged the buying of war stamps and bonds, during World War II. Over the years, advertisers came to appreciate that they were selling an experience as much as a product.

Throughout the post-war decades, the use of promotional jingles steadily increased. The Troggs and Jefferson Airplane both recorded jingles, for Coca-Cola and Levi’s jeans respectively. Meanwhile the 1980s and 1990s saw successful campaigns such as the Be All that You Can Be one for the US Army. And let’s not forget You Deserve a Break Today for fast-food giant McDonald’s.

While American commercial (or ‘private’ as it’s often known in the US) radio began in the 1920s, similar stations didn’t appear in the UK until the 1970s, in the wake of the pirate radio stations of the 1960s. During the 1980s, synthesised music and MTV drove the use of pop music in ads. New digital technology like multi-track recording had made a more complex blending of sounds possible by the end of the twentieth century. Radio jingles have certainly changed and developed over the decades – but they’re not going anywhere, anytime soon.

Music Radio Creative: Here To Help

At Music Radio Creative, we make thousands of radio jingles and ads for stations worldwide. Whether you want a pre-made product or a competitively priced radio imaging package, a sung jingle or a voiceover. We also specialise in creation of memorable radio ads and commercials. Both sung and spoken. Get in touch and let us help you sound awesome!