To write a successful jingle, you need to write something catchy, something simple, something contagious—an earworm. So no wonder some of the best-known ad jingles were written by the same people who wrote Broadway’s great showtunes. These four composers have us clamoring for the “quilted quicker picker upper” and asking “What would you do (ooh-ooh) for a Klondike bar?”
1. Lynn Ahrens
Best known now for such musicals as Anastasia, Once On This Island, Ragtime, and the upcoming Marie—all written with long-time writing partner Stephen Flaherty—lyricist and book writer Lynn Ahrens got her start writing both music and lyrics for TV projects. Most famously, Ahrens worked on the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon series, writing and often performing such songs as “Interplanet Janet,” “No More Kings,” “The Preamble,” “The Great American Melting Pot,” and “A Noun is a Person, Place or Thing.”
Ahren’s TV work also encompassed commercials, writing such jingles as “What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar” and “Bounty: The Quicker Picker Upper.”
Listen to Ahrens' work in this 1986 Klondike Bar commercial:
2. Richard Adler
This composer, lyricist, writer, and producer began his career as part of a successful writing partnership with composer and lyricist Jerry Ross. The pair wrote a pop song, “Rags to Riches,” that was recorded by Tony Bennett and hit number one on the pop charts in 1953. The following year, Adler and Ross premiered The Pajama Game on Broadway and won a 1955 Tony Award for Best Musical. Just one year after that, they followed up Pajama Game with Damn Yankees, winning Best Musical at the 1956 Tony Awards. Their meteoric rise was cut short when Ross died tragically at age 29, within months of Damn Yankee’s Broadway premiere. Adler never truly found another writing partner, and, though he wrote three more Broadway musicals, none of them even approached the level of success he enjoyed with Pajama Game and Damn Yankees.
Adler began writing jingles after Ross died. He would come to be known as “King of the Jingles,” writing for numerous ad campaigns. His best remembered jingles today include “Let Hertz Put You in the Driver’s Seat” and “Newport Filter Cigarettes.”
Listen to Adler's Hertz jingle in this 1964 commercial:
3. Barry Manilow
This recording and concert star has never truly been in or written a play or musical on Broadway, but he has played three Broadway concert engagements (in 1976, 1989, and 2013) and contributed songs to Bette Midler’s 1975 Clams on the Half Shell Revue and Phyllis Newman’s 1979 solo show The Madwoman of Central Park West.
Manilow began writing ad jingles early in his career, before he was famous, and has continued to do so ever since. Most memorable from the long list of Manilow’s jingles are melodies to “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There” and “I Am Stuck On Band-Aid Brand ‘Cause Band-Aid’s Stuck On Me,” but Manilow also penned campaigns for such companies as Stridex, KFC, Dr. Pepper, and McDonald’s.
Listen to Manilow's Band-Aid jingle in this commercial from the 1970s:
4. Jake Holmes
Like Manilow, Jake Holmes has not necessarily lived a life in the theatre, but he does boast a Broadway credit for incidental music written for the short-lived Alan Ayckbourn play A Small Family Business.
He spent the bulk of his career recording his own albums, such as The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes and So Close, So Very Far to Go and writing advertisement jingles. His best known campaigns were for Dr. Pepper (“Be a Pepper”) and the U.S. Army (“Be All That You Can Be”), both of which were used extensively throughout the 1980s. He also wrote “Aren’t You Hungry for Burger King Now?” and “Come See the Softer Side of Sears.”
Listen to Holmes' "Be a Pepper" in this Dr. Pepper commercial from 1979: