Video 1: Jolly Green Giant

Video 2: See the USA in your Chevrolet
Video 3: Ajax Detergent

I don’t know about you, but when I see advertisements on TV these days, I usually can’t remember what the product is that they’re advertising.  I remember that I saw an ad for a car, but I can’t tell you if it was for a Lexus or a Ford. Usually all I remember is that the car is winding along some mountain road with a lot of curves, which isn’t going to be an incentive for me to buy the car anyway since I live in San Francisco. It’ll be a long time before I drive on a road like that. And if I did decide to buy a car based on the ad, I have no idea which dealer’s showroom I should be walking into.

I miss the old days when advertisements had jingles that helped you remember what the product was. Today they call that “branding.” Sure, the jingles were second-rate music and sometimes annoying the way an old friend can be, but at least you knew the name of the company.

One of the best-known jingles was for a brand of frozen vegetables: “In the valley of the Jolly, ho-ho-ho, Green Giant.” (see video one on the right) You would always remember that “Green Giant” was the company.

Or how about this one for an auto company? “See the USA, in your Chevrolet.” (see video 2 on the right) No mistaking that for a Ford or Chrysler.

Then there was this little ditty that would make Ogden Nash turn over in his grave: “New Ajax laundry detergent is stronger than dirt! Stronger than dirt!” (see video 3 on the right) I don’t know how long that ad ran, but I guess you can be “new” for a long time in the advertising business.

Even without jingles, advertisers knew how to get you to remember who they were. They used slogans like “Ford has a better idea” or “Schlitz—the beer that made Milwaukee famous.” These days, even when they do have a slogan like, “What’s in your wallet?” I can’t remember what the company is. It just isn’t the same.

Somehow advertisers can get away with things that nobody else can. It’s alright for advertisers to pound the names of Apple and Gatorade into our heads all day long by sheer repetition in the hope that we’ll go out and get the latest Mac or the newest flavor of Gatorade.  At least the Federal Trade Commission says it’s okay.

Can you imagine if the Democrats or the Republicans used jingles? Or religious groups? What would people think if they heard a jingle that went (with apologies to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young):

All Souls Church
Is a very, very, very fine church.

Or (to the tune of Oklahoma):

Te-e-e-e-mple Kodesh
Where the oneg‘s always big and full
Where the heimisch crowd
Is always wowed
By the rabbi’s tallis made of wool!

Imagine hearing those on the radio over and over again. You might actually be inclined to visit a house of worship that used a jingle like those. But synagogues and churches can’t get away with what advertisers can. After all, faith isn’t supposed to be a commodity that most people want to hawk.

And yet religion has had its share of slogans, too. There’s Martin Luther’s famous slogan, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” The great sage Hillel said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary.” I don’t know if they set them to music, though.

Then there’s the Jews for Jesus. You’ve seen them standing on street corners or handing out their literature on campuses. They have slogans like the name itself, “Jews for Jesus.” Or sometimes I’ve seen, “Jesus made me kosher.” Or even, “Christmas is a Jewish holiday, or at least it should be.”

I don’t really mind religious slogans. If they’re good, they make me want to think, not to buy. I think there’s a place for slogans and even jingles in faith. They’re more positive than the political slogans I’ve heard, and they make more sense than a lot of political jingles (when William Howard Taft ran for president in the early 20th century, his jingle, set to music, was “Get on a raft with Taft.”   Taft weighed in at around 340 pounds and no one in their right mind wanted to get on a raft with him.)

Maybe we won’t be hearing jingles to visit Ner Tamid or First Prebyterian Church anytime soon, but slogans and songs can be a creative way to make us think and tap our toes at the same time.

—Pseudo-Rooney

*Recently a cache of articles was found that sound remarkably like Andy Rooney. However, scientists have proven that Andy Rooney was not in fact the author of these articles; the unknown writer has been dubbed “Pseudo-Rooney” by scholars.  Since no else has seen fit to publish his writings, we’ve decided to go ahead.  This is one of his recent pieces.