Wheaties - the first sung jingle in a radio ad - 1926

Nov 16, 2014, 12:14 AM

Jingles on radio stations and within commercial ads are now part of life. They were once a new idea.

The first sung advertising jingle is said to date back to 1926, aired on WCCO in Minneapolis- St. Paul on Christmas Eve. The product was 'Wheaties', from General Mills, a range said to be on the verge of extinction, rescued by this distinctive radio ad campaign. The vocal sound was barbershop, with four male singers, later dubbed 'The Wheaties Four'.

In a fascinating twist, this was a time when suspicions ran high about radio advertising. There was a worry that sullied messages such as these might provoke a "strong and general prejudice against all forms of advertising on the radio". Thus, the ad had to get around NBC radio rules which outlawed direct sales messages in ads. This copy escaped the regulatory hammer by advising listeners just to 'try' Wheaties. Not necessarily buy them.

We can therefore lay the credit for the creation of today's radio station jingle industry at the feet of ad agencies. Indeed, PAMS was one such ad agency, which famously was to switch from singing the virtues of soap and oats to the merits of hits and memories and become the first, and some say the greatest, radio jingle company of all.