Why “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie And Chevrolet” Has Stood The Test Of Time

By Jon Evans, CMO at System1

From Steve Miller’s “The Joker” to Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting”, the hits of 1974 include their share of classic earworms. But over in adland, Chevrolet made a hit of its own that year – “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet” which became one of the most iconic car jingles of all time.

Now it’s back, with a tasty club-flavored remix introduced by Guy Fieri. But why did, and does, the song make such an impact on audiences?

Engage with the right brain

In modern advertising, music is too often an afterthought. But it’s one of advertising’s most powerful weapons, helping attract people’s attention and build long-term positive memories of brands. Orlando Wood’s Lemon shows that music is one of the most effective ways of engaging the right hemisphere of the brain – melody and music are “the natural language of the right brain”. Lemon shows how ads with features (like music) that have right-brain appeal also create more positive emotion and lead to greater brand-building effects. Getting the music right matters.

Chevrolet’s original ads also use voiceover well. It’s standard ad practice to dilute the impact of a soundtrack, or of other creative features, by laying a voiceover on top to deliver the sales message. Chevy didn’t succumb to that temptation – the voiceover in those 70s ads exists in dialogue with the jingle. Most voiceovers split the audience’s attention when they’re watching an ad – Chevrolet’s worked to reinforce the soundtrack.

 

The results set up a string of brand associations – baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and… the audience’s brains are happy to fill in the blank! It’s that strength of association that means that the current campaign initially didn’t even feature the song. Chevrolet got Guy Fieri to create an apple pie hot dog and promote it at a baseball game, and the power of brand association did the rest. It’s a testament to Chevrolet’s original 70s work that almost half a century later, that link is still strong and the soundtrack still resonates.

How sound can support the story and drive results

In Chevrolet’s ads the music was the focus, and the story was secondary. But music in storytelling ads is crucial too. It works best when it’s a natural fit for the story, the setting and the characters. The same ad with a melancholy ballad and a jaunty pop tune will have very different emotional impacts. In some cases, the music can form the whole basis for an idea. For example, in a generally somber 2021 awards season, Cheeto’s brought a much-needed dose of humour with its brilliant ad built around MC Hammer and “U Can’t Touch This”.

Get the soundtrack right and you’ll see a more positive response to your ad. And this will pay off. A recent study of effectiveness from the IPA shows the value of this – it found that emotional creativity is the second-ranked driver of business effect, beaten only by the size of the brand.

When you create advertising devices that make people happy and stand the test of time, it can generate long-term benefits. Nobody at Chevrolet in 1974 was thinking “I bet they’ll want to make an ad using this song in 2021” (and they definitely weren’t thinking about the apple pie hot dog). But here we are, and by creating such a strong soundtrack, Chevrolet can reap the benefits of nostalgia now and in the future.

Who will remember a blank background with a spinning product in front of it, or a generic voiceover, in 50 years’ time? A lot fewer people than remember “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet”.

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