In my new column for the Visual Thesaurus, “Ads That Rhyme: Past Their Prime?”, I look at the so-called golden age of rhyming ads and slogans—the 1940s through the 1970s—and ask whether rhyme still has a place in advertising.
Full access is restricted to subscribers; here’s an excerpt:
The very popularity of rhyming ads and slogans probably contributed to their demise. By the time Orson Welles intoned “We will sell no wine before its time”—a slant or “imperfect” rhyme—for the Paul Masson brand in the late 1970s, Americans were experiencing verse fatigue. Within a few years, rhyming jingles had all but evaporated. Instead of jingles we began to hear licensed or commissioned pop songs—soundtracks that establish a mood rather than urge a purchase. Nike’s licensing of the Beatles’ “Revolution,” in 1987, is often cited as a turning point; since then, ads have featured the familiar songs of Johnny Cash (for Choice Hotels), M.C. Hammer (Purell), Robert Palmer (Applebee’s), the Lovin’ Spoonful (Kohl’s), and many other artists. (See a longer list here.) Commissioned original music is rarer, and it often takes the lazy way out by spoofing a familiar childhood tune: see, for example, this current ad for Norfolk Southern, which “updates” the “Schoolhouse Rock” song “Conjunction Junction”; and Stephin Merritt’s lugubrious reworking of “The Wheels on the Bus,” for Volvo.
Read the rest of “Ads That Rhyme: Past Their Prime?”
A recent ad for the Ford C-MAX hybrid minivan gives a depressing picture of the current state of versifying:
When you’re carrying a lot of weight,
C-MAX has a nice little trait,
you see, C-MAX helps load your freight,
with its foot-activated liftgate.
Here’s a slightly more successful attempt at rhyming, a Dr. Seuss tribute from Prius: