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It was back in 1884, when copies of “Wait For The Wagon” found themselves being distributed to people to play at home on their pianos, guitars or banjos (as was the prominent venue for music publishing sales at that time.) Sure, there were lots of pieces of sheet music at the time but how many of them came with the message “Compliments of the Studebaker Bros. Manufacturing Co” and contained a line about a product?

When this spot first popped up on our Hulu a few weeks ago, everyone in the room began humming along about how “That Big Red freshness lasts right through it.”  Of course, upon paying closer attention, we realized this was actually a Verizon commercial.  The spot uses the instantly recognizable Big Red anthem and updates the lyrics to be about their cellular network: “So kiss a little longer” becomes “So browse the web much better.”  It definitely brought up the question: Has one brand ever used the jingle of another before?  Is this absolute brilliance or a risky move?

“We simply presented an idea to Verizon and they liked it,” says Mike Boris, Music Producer at McCann Erickson, the agency behind the entire Verizon campaign.  “They had no intention of affiliating with Big Red, they just thought it was a song that everybody would recognize and they wanted to have fun with it” he continued.

And he should know – years before he was the guy choosing music for L’Oreal, Buick, Mastercard and, yes, Verizon commercials, Mike was a sound engineer on one of those Big Red sessions in the early 1990s.  “We brought in one of the original singers from the Big Red spot who I had known from doing that session,” said Mike.

Mike helped run the new session and told us that Wrigley, who owns the copyright on the Big Red jingle, was up for it.  When I asked Mike if they had any concerns about lending their brand sound to another, he said Wrigley had no concerns.  “They asked us to include a Big Red T-shirt which we did and I think they actually got a lot of recognition from the spot.”

When those of us in Music Branding make the case that a brand “owns” their sound, how does that hold up in a case like this? It’s an interesting question and one that merits further discussion.  Does Verizon plan on using any more jingles in this way? “Nah,” says Mike, “There are no current plans to do this again although you never know!”

Watch for yourself:

Verizon’s “Big Red” Commercial:

Original Big Red Commercial:



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