Great ideas can come at any time. For McCann-Erickson's creative director Bill Backer in January 1971, one of those great ideas came while enduring a weather-induced layover in Shannon, Ireland. "I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company," Backer wrote on the back of a napkin. At that point, it was just an idea — but it would soon become one of the most enduring jingles in history. Songwriters Roger Greenaway, Roger Cook, Backer and Coca-Cola's music director Billy Davis would write and produce the jingle within just a few days.
"I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke," performed by popular British act The New Seekers, was the soundtrack for one of Coke's most famous commercials, July 1971's "Hilltop." The jingle was so popular that it was recorded as a full-length song and became a commercial hit in both the U.S. and the U.K., where later in 1971 it spent several weeks at the top of the charts.
"I'd Like To Buy the World a Coke" is just one of the 10 best-ever advertising jingles as voted on by a group of CMO's and advertising luminaries, including Jeff Goodby, cofounder and cochairman of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners; Kim M. Sharan, CMO of Ameriprise; and Milda Milecivus, executive vice president of New York's Korey Kay & Partners. When there was a tie, veteran ad-watching editors from Forbes weighed in on the selections.
What makes an enduring jingle? "First of all, it has to have huge sticking power," said Linda Kaplan Thaler, CEO and chief creative officer of New York ad agency the Kaplan Thaler Group. "A jingle is not successful if you listen to it once and like it. You have to listen to it and want to sing it. Essentially you become the advertiser for the brand."
Kaplan Thaler is the mind behind one of the other jingles on our list. While at New York's JWT, she created the now-iconic "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" jingle for Wayne, N.J.-based toy retailer Toys 'R Us. Kaplan Thaler was hesitant at first to play the song for anyone at JWT, but once it hit the airwaves in 1982, the tune would catch on quickly. "That same week it was on the air I heard a little 4-year-old singing it in the street and I heard his mother say 'if you don't stop singing that damn song we're never going to make the bus.' It had whatever it needed to be catchy to kids as well as their parents," she said.
As media has evolved, the question of the jingle's effectiveness in contemporary times has arisen. Kaplan Thaler believes it may actually be easier to create a jingle today. "… I actually think there are better reasons to do it today than there was in the past … think about it — you can post a jingle on YouTube, set it virally, invite someone to create their own version of the jingle, write their own lyrics … If you have something that is a real hook and you know, really is motivating to sell and people like singing and listening to, there are many more outlets where you can place that," she said.
Others, like longtime ad executive and Engine USA CEO Martin Puris believe that the jingle's time has come and gone. "Music doesn't need TV anymore to get heard. But somehow in a marketing wary world a jingle seems oddly out of place. Too slick, too contrived."