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Hidden advertising

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Mark Easton | 15:25 UK time, Friday, 8 August 2008

Since June, the UK Top 40 has featured a hidden advertisement for chewing gum. It turns out that Chris Brown's hit Forever is a crypto-ad for Wrigley's Doublemint gum.

Julianne Hough, Ne-Yo and Chris BrownI recently posted an item on how the charts included a number of references to trainers - a commercial battle between Nike and Adidas conducted within the lyrics of pop songs.

But in studying the words of all the hits, I failed to spot the significance of the chorus to Brown's number. "Double your pleasure/double your fun", he sings - a line I should have twigged was from the Doublemint gum jingle used since 1960.

Now Wrigley's have come clean. In a press release they reveal how the song is an extended version of a new jingle for their product.

"The summer release of Brown's smash hit, Forever, which featured the unmistakable Doublemint gum jingle lyrics, kicked-off the creative partnership between Brown and Doublemint gum", the company announced.

"Wrigley consulted with Translation Advertising (NY) to conceptualize and identify the artists behind the jingle remakes."

Translation Advertising is co-owned by Grammy-winning rapper Jay-Z, real name Shawn Carter. With another African-American entrepreneur, Steve Stoute, they started the agency to help companies reach young multicultural consumers.

The Wrigley's campaign is aimed at the US market and includes TV ads featuring R&B singer Ne-Yo doing his own take on Big Red's "kiss a little longer" jingle and country singer Julianne Hough proclaiming that Juicy Fruit's "taste is gonna move ya".

It is the global chart success of Chris Brown's Forever that takes the campaign into new territory. No-one knew the song's secret until an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Apparently, while recording the Doublemint jingle in February, Brown extended it into a four and a half minute pop song. Then, in April, Mr Brown's record label, Jive, released the song to US radio stations and digital download services as a single. It crossed the Atlantic a few weeks later and has sat in the UK charts for the last 10 weeks.

British gum-lovers will not be tempted by the rapper's jingle which is only being used in the US, and most Brown fans I suspect will be unfazed by the origins of the hit. But the story does remind us how sophisticated the advertising industry is becoming in trying to make an impact with potential customers.

Eurostar train in St PancrasThe Mother advertising agency, based in London, is using theatre and film to sell product. The low-budget movie Somers Town, set around St Pancras station and due to hit the cinemas this month, is sponsored by Eurostar.

Meanwhile at the Edinburgh Festival, Pot Noodle: The Musical has played to standing ovations. Behind the scenes, most of the production's costs are being picked up by the snack manufacturer.

I don't mind being advertised to but I can't help feeling slightly abused when I discover selling is being conducted only with my subconscious. Perhaps it is a legacy of the way commercial broadcasting has clearly marked out the ads from the content in this country, but I also find it slightly disconcerting when the two become blurred.


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  • 1. At 4:52pm on 08 Aug 2008, MonkeyBot 5000 wrote:

    "But the story does remind us how sophisticated the advertising industry is becoming in trying to make an impact with potential customers. "

    A little too sophisticated given that no-one noticed.

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  • 2. At 5:16pm on 08 Aug 2008, VinChainSaw wrote:

    zzzzzzzzzzz... who cares?

    There are surely more important things to worry about and debate in today's climate than whether a subliminal chewing gum ad, which nobody even noticed, is allowable or not.

    One day you're blogging about knife crime in South London and the next about some hidden lyric in a song?

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  • 3. At 6:18pm on 08 Aug 2008, phillipcarter wrote:

    I'm a little miffed at the cynercism, although smiled when I remembered "I'd like to teach the world to sing...."

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  • 4. At 7:02pm on 08 Aug 2008, ricachet wrote:

    this is truely unnessery, the use of pop culture for advertising has been going on for a long, long time. a quick glance of my DVD collection, and i see the movie "i, robot", this movie contains scenes where the car company audi fetures permanently. Look at my video games, Nokia Gibson and Vans, all have major parts. TV shows, sporting events and music videos all have product placement within.

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  • 5. At 7:11pm on 08 Aug 2008, blueOrpheus wrote:

    "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" was written for the De Beers monopoly and Richards's "Summer Holiday" was an advert for lovely Skegness!

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  • 6. At 7:49pm on 08 Aug 2008, Stevie357 wrote:

    I though he was just being pervy - makes me think a bit differently about the song now I know he's singing about chewing gum.

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  • 7. At 8:29pm on 08 Aug 2008, Esteffect wrote:

    Extended versions of advert songs would be great - like the Sodastream ad, "That's Fizzy", which was far too short at 30 seconds.

    Plenty of songs are based on brands, and most aren't for commercial reasons - Korn released "A.D.I.D.A.S." without a commercial incentive I'm sure, and likewise when JC Chasez (vaguely) covered it.

    Dance artist Ron Carroll has also recently had "The Nike Song" out.

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  • 8. At 8:55pm on 08 Aug 2008, GeekMarkyT wrote:

    Getting your song on an Ad, or writing a song for an Ad... This goes back and back and back.... For flips sake, 1991 Brian May and "Everything I do is driven by you" -- written for latest Ford "ad-line". Yeah, not so disguised, but no different.
    Ads and pop make a good mix!

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  • 9. At 00:14am on 09 Aug 2008, Ray Bristol wrote:

    Makes you think how times have changed.
    I remember the story of how Ray Davies had to make a transatlantic round trip just to change a single word of "Lola" ( in the days before Concorde too), just to make sure certain radio stations wouldn't ban the song on the basis of the lyrics referring to a particular brand of cola.
    As for the New Seekers, David Dundas, et al: All their songs started as ads and the words had to be changed in order to get them radio airtime.
    In those days radio stations realised that, if they were to play songs which plugged products, there would be no reason for any client to pay them to place adverts. If radio stations returned to this policy I believe it would still have the stopping power of a well-aimed housebrick. If the song doesn't get played, the artists involved are denied the promotion, which in turn makes them less attractive to corporate sponsors.

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  • 10. At 07:05am on 09 Aug 2008, tarquin wrote:

    re: 9 - apart from commercial radio stations are no longer the dominant form of music delivery - the digital download is

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  • 11. At 3:53pm on 09 Aug 2008, sweetalkinguy wrote:

    The BBC has always been keen to avoid playing songs containing the names of products, for example, the Jimmy Buffett song "Come Monday", a hit elsewhere all around the world, which mentions "Hush Puppies". The Coca Cola company has long used specially-written pop-songs for jingles, apart from the New Seekers teaching the world to sing, summertime was funtime for Bobby Goldsboro (but summer was the first time), but neither of those mentioned the product by name in the released version of the song.

    Subliminal advertising is illegal in cinemas and on the telly. This used to involve putting an odd frame or two of advert in a 24 frame-per-second film. Subliminal means too quick to be recognised consciously. A slogan in the lyrics of a song is not the same. It lasts a lot longer. It would rely upon some prior knowledge of the slogan in question, from the same, or an alternative, medium of advertising in order for a connection to be made.

    Seeking bans is ineffective. By the time the regulator has woken up and noticed that the material offends, it will have been exposed to millions of potential consumers. If it was any good, its work would have already been done. A ban is further publicity and advertising. Did anybody go into French Connection before the powers that be started giving themselves helical underwear over the puerile advertising?

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  • 12. At 7:57pm on 09 Aug 2008, power_to_the_ppl wrote:

    Sixty lashes per offence for every greedy executive, that'd put a stop to it! (And for our MPs, sixty lashes per lie/mistake/withheld truth!)

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  • 13. At 5:02pm on 10 Aug 2008, EvilKeg wrote:

    And the music industry is currently suffering financial losses why? I wouldn't even bother downloading drivel like this.

    Things like this make me want to start charging for my time watching "endorsed" films and music...

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  • 14. At 9:40pm on 10 Aug 2008, Devonportdave wrote:

    I hope the BBC will banning this music from their radio and t.v. channels....or come clean about having adverts on the airwaves and drop the licence fee.

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  • 15. At 11:27pm on 10 Aug 2008, UKIntel wrote:

    Really.... Who? What?

    Chris Brown's - Who? Forever - What? Grammy-winning rapper Jay-Z - Who?

    I must be living on a completely different planet if this is relevant or of interest to anyone.

    Perhaps I should try coming up to planet London more often so as to be able to start to comprehend why on earth anyone would give a tuppney ha'penny about this or a chewing gum.

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  • 16. At 02:25am on 11 Aug 2008, raggerty66 wrote:

    But the story does remind us how sophisticated the advertising industry is becoming in trying to make an impact with potential customers.

    influencing the thought/behavioural processes of young minds through subliminal advertising is now called 'sophisticated'.
    if it is not the authors intention to have people see this exploitation in a positive light he should have selected another word? 'desperate' springs to mind, as does 'coniving'. or 'low' would do just as well.
    if it is his intention, why?
    hopefully his comments section is not influenced by the fact that the BBC website inflicts adverts on those viewing from abroad.

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  • 17. At 12:59pm on 11 Aug 2008, NuclearChicken wrote:

    #12: that will only encourage them.

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  • 18. At 11:09pm on 11 Aug 2008, NoRashDecisions wrote:

    I know this is a '"UK" blog, but being a foreigner who is interested in other countries and the differences between cultures as I am, I was wondering if I could put my 'two cents in, if you will.

    First, I don't understand what the big deal is with the UK banning any such refferences to advertisements of any kind of product in the songs that are played over its radio air waves. As Mark has pointed out, no such ban exists in the US, and being an American I honestly can't remember a time when a thought ever crossed my mind of some company trying to cell me something when listening to a song. And even if one did, would it be the end of the world? No. Its not as if I'm being forced to buy something. So what's the fuss about? After all, isn't it a given fact of life now adays that advertisement is everywhere, inescapable, and that's just a fact of life now? If t is ok in the UK to allow hidden advertisements in-I would suspect as I have never been but given that the culture is very similar to ours-within film, TV programs, then why is it not ok to allow them within the lyrics of a song?

    "British gum-lovers will not be tempted by the rapper's jingle which is only being used in the US."

    If this is true, then will someone please tell me what lyrics-if any-are put in place of the '"double your pleasure double your fun" line in the song? Is that part just instramentle? Did Chris Brown have to record an entirely different virsion of the song for its UK release?

    "Most Brown fans I suspect will be unfazed by the origins of the hit."

    Yes I suspect they will. Although it is sad; that song is beautiful with beautiful lyrics and a beautiful melody!

    "But the story does remind us how sophisticated the advertising industry is becoming in trying to make an impact with potential customers."

    Something tells me it has been this way all along.

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  • 19. At 09:02am on 12 Aug 2008, TheeHips wrote:

    The thing that bothers me most is the fact that advertisers are now getting us to pay them to advertise to us! Wrigley's should be giving away the "Forever" single for free. How stupid do you feel paying 79pee to be advertised to?

    I was recently in a Hard Rock Cafe and was asked if I wanted to pay extra for a HRC branded glass. My reply that I would take one if they payed me, since I would be advertising their product, was met with some confusion.

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  • 20. At 09:51am on 12 Aug 2008, jon112uk wrote:

    Interesting, but can't say I would ever have noticed if you hadn't told me.

    Will your telling me help protect me from this underhanded ploy?

    Or will it now make me more attentive and increase the risk of irational gum buying?

    As the media discover and report this plot, the gum will get more air time than the firm could ever have afforded to pay for? Did Wrigleys plan this right from the begining?

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  • 21. At 11:16am on 12 Aug 2008, kennyharris wrote:

    "Sophisticated"? "Subliminal"?

    What, "Pot Noodle The Musical"?

    You're right - I hadn't noticed the subtle commercial reference in the title of that particular theatrical gem. Curse those manipulative marketing execs!

    We could encourage the trend, and get Mark Ronson and Amy Whitehouse to remix "Do the Shake and Vac, and put the freshness back."

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  • 22. At 04:31am on 14 Aug 2008, BrightonStevie wrote:

    #2 "There are surely more important things to worry about and debate in today's climate than whether a subliminal chewing gum ad, which nobody even noticed, is allowable or not."

    What like complaining about such articles you mean?

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  • 23. At 00:19am on 15 Aug 2008, tarquin wrote:

    re 18 - I disagree, i see a huge difference between the US style and the UK - granted the UK has been becoming increasingly commercialised since the 80s but it's nothing compared to the American model of: adverts every ten minutes, everything from news shows to documentaries sponsored and very obvious product placement. Ads are kept to a very healthy twenty minutes, or one per half hour show here, or even better for movies.
    I've noticed a lot of americans complaining about olympic coverage being interrupted by poorly placed advert breaks (because it's not covering your own sports which are formatted to suit television coverage) - meanwhile we get to sit back and watch about a dozen advert-free channels of quality coverage

    - and re the chewing gum - the jingle itself isnt being used here, there's a line in the song that no one notices but the actual ad isn't used

    oh and i never got that 'action news' thing...

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