July 28th, 2008
Chew on This: Hit Song Is a Gum Jingle
By Ethan Smith and Julie Jargon
The Wall Street Journal
Sharp-eared pop-music fans may have noticed a brief reference to an old chewing-gum jingle buried in “Forever,” Chris Brown’s top-10 hit. “Double your pleasure/double your fun,” the R&B singer croons in the chorus.
What listeners don’t know—and what Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. planned to reveal Tuesday—is that the song is a commercial.
“Forever” is an extended version of a new Doublemint jingle written by Mr. Brown and scheduled to begin airing next month in 30-second spots for Wrigley’s green-packaged chewing gum.
Mr. Brown is one of a trio of pop stars enlisted by ad agency Translation Advertising, a unit of Interpublic Group of Cos., to update the images of three of Wrigley’s best-known brands.
The campaign includes spots featuring R&B singer Ne-Yo doing his own take on Big Red’s “kiss a little longer” jingle. And “Dancing With the Stars” regular-turned-country-singer Julianne Hough recorded a twangy version of Juicy Fruit’s “The taste is gonna move ya.”
But Mr. Brown’s “Forever” is the most ambitious part of the campaign. Mr. Brown was commissioned to write and sing both the pop song and a new version of the Doublemint jingle, introduced in 1960.
First, Mr. Brown updated the jingle and recorded it with hip-hop producer Polow Da Don. Then, during the same Los Angeles recording sessions in February, paid for by Wrigley, Mr. Brown added new lyrics and made a 4˝-minute rendition of the tune, titled “Forever.”
In April, Mr. Brown’s record label, Jive, released the song to radio stations and digital download services as a single. After the song became a hit, Jive added it to his 2007 album, “Exclusive,” and re-released the album in June. “Forever” reached No. 4 on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart last week.
All three new Wrigley jingles are scheduled to be unveiled at a news conference Tuesday in New York, with each of them to be performed by the artist involved. Mr. Brown is slated to sing “Forever” and segue into his jingle. New television commercials and radio spots featuring the jingles and print ads showing new packaging for the gum are set appear in August.
The campaign illustrates a deepening of the ties between pop music and advertising. Rappers frequently mention luxury products like liquor or cars in songs, and occasionally serve as paid spokesmen for the brands. And for McDonald’s Corp.’s 2003 “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign, the burger chain, with the aid of Translation Chief Executive Steve Stoute, enlisted Justin Timberlake to write and record a song using the slogan as its chorus. But the song was never released on one of his albums.
Tom Carrabba, executive vice president and general manager of the Zomba Label Group, which includes Jive, says label executives initially had qualms about releasing and promoting a song recorded at an advertiser’s behest. “But the song was so potent and strong. That overruled us being maybe a little hesitant,” he adds.
Other than the “double your pleasure” line, the lyrics to the song and the TV jingle are different. But the melody and the music behind it are nearly indistinguishable. “Tonight is the night to join me in the middle of ecstasy,” Mr. Brown sings in a verse that is also part of a 60-second radio ad scheduled to air starting Friday. “Cause we only got one night. Double your pleasure. Double your fun.”
The campaign was conceived and executed by Mr. Stoute, a former senior executive at Interscope Records who counts rapper Jay-Z as a partner in his business. The idea was to connect the hit song and the jingle in listener’s minds. That way, Mr. Stoute says, “by the time the new jingle came out, it was already seeded properly within popular culture.”
Mr. Brown said in an email that he wrote “Forever” and the related jingle in about 30 minutes each. “I actually thought it would take longer to write a jingle they would like,” he wrote. “But they said it was a perfect fit after the first try.”
Paul Chibe, Wrigley’s vice president for North American gum marketing, declines to disclose how much Mr. Brown was paid for his role in the campaign.
Wrigley’s push to update its older gum brands started earlier this year, when the company began selling them in new slim, envelope-style packages. Some of the gum was reformulated to improve its flavor and make it last longer. Juicy Fruit—Wrigley’s oldest brand, launched in 1893—Doublemint, Big Red, Spearmint, Winterfresh and the newer Extra line, represent around 30% of the company’s U.S. gum business.
Wrigley chose Mr. Brown to develop the new Doublemint song, in part because the company’s consumer research showed that African-American consumers prefer Doublemint to other gum brands. Mr. Chibe calls the move “the future of the brand.”
Mr. Chibe added that the mildly suggestive lyrics have never given the company pause. “Everything he’s done with ‘Forever’ represents the brand and it fits our brand personality for Doublemint,” Mr. Chibe added.
While Wrigley has had strong sales in emerging markets, it has lost market share in the U.S., where it faces strong competition from Cadbury PLC, maker of Trident, Stride and Dentyne. Last year, the company’s North American sales were flat, at $1.75 billion.
During the company’s annual meeting in March, Chairman William Wrigley said he was “far from satisfied” with the company’s domestic performance in 2007, though results improved in the first quarter of 2008. In April, Wrigley agreed to be acquired by Mars Inc., the closely held maker of M&Ms and Snickers, for about $23 billion.