The Power Of Jingles: Valerie Geller

I’ll never forget the day. I was waiting in a slow moving line at the bank. That’s when the guy next to me quietly, began humming our station’s jingle: “77 WABC.”  Then, one-by-one, the entire line of people joined in – singing along to our contagious and catchy tune. It was one of those moments, an epiphany you never forget as a PD. And that’s when I knew the power of a great jingle.Musical imaging works. People remember jingles.

Megatrax Senior Division Manager-Radio Ileana Landon points out: “Jingles have always had a place in advertising and branding. If you grew up in the 1960s and 70s, you might remember: “My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R” or  “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz…?”  While times have changed,  Landon stresses, “One thing has not changed, that’s the need to brand.”

Connecting To Consumers One Song At A Time

Music has always played a role in news and talk radio, adding excitement and contributing to mood. Now, as more and more DJs transition to talk, and  News/Talk migrates to FM  and podcasts become more creative with their use and mixing of talk and music, it’s a good time to take a look at News/Talk jingles. Here are some of the people who create and market them.  

Not Your Parent’s Talk Station

“This is not your parent’s news or talk station,” says Debra Grobman, Director of Broadcast Branding for FUZEARTZ, who works with Tribune Broadcasting, ESPN, FOX News Channel and The Bravo Network. She points out, “Melody logos for news packages for the new generation of news and talk on FM, especially without vocals, need to be memorable. They need a unique tone and style.”  That tone and style needs to express the vision of how you want your station represented to your audience.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Hans Everling with The Netherlands-based SOB Audio Imaging suggests stations could benefit by going back to the drawing board. “Do your research, brand mapping, and positioning,” he says.

“Define your brand promise and then create the appropriate sound branding. If you do this, you may end up with a very different sound than most other stations, which will help you to stand out and to create a unique brand perception in the listener’s mind.”



News/Talk Jingles

While some News/Talk stations use bumper music hooks from popular songs or music that fits a news event or topic, there’s a case to be made for consistently branding a station or a show with memorable and recognizable jingles, and Megatrax’s Landon makes that case. “If you have a jingle, you already know how valuable it is.” With PPM, increased competition, and more than 350,000 Internet radio stations available, Landon stresses the importance of using this powerful branding tool. “With TuneIn coming into car dashboards, and everything  available on your smartphone apps, imaging can help distinguish your brand across all of these media platforms.” 

If you don’t know the name “Megatrax,” you’ve likely heard their work if you’ve seen “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” ”The Avengers” or “Ironman,” or TV’s “Modern Family” or “The Simpsons.” They’ve also done imaging for KRTH (KEARTH 101) in Los Angeles, WJFK in Washington DC, and news packages for GLR – Grupo Latino de Radio.

Should Heritage Stations Blow Up Their Current Jingles?

If News and Talk stations want to stay relevant, they need to freshen and update their imaging, according to Grobman. She also says, “You can use the same bones as the AM predecessors.” You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Landon agrees, saying while an identifiable and memorable branding package stands the test of time, “If you’ve had the jingle for a while, it’s important to refresh your jingles. If your jingles sound like the ’80s, it’s time to bring them into the new millennium.”

New From Europe

It’s not just the music – new technology is changing and improving how we use jingles. If you’ve listened to 1010 WINS in New York or WNEW in Washington DC, you’ve heard Motionmixes in action. This music imaging system, from Salzburg, Austria-based Foster Kent, uses a touchscreen interface to match music flow to the content, allowing talent to remix music on-air in real time, add emphasis at just the right moment, and end a music segment cold without having to backtime. For the CBS all newsers, Motionmixes punches up their headline segments. Instead of timing their copy to hit posts, anchors call up a perfectly timed musical post at will.

Foster Kent, Megatrax, SOB and FuzeArtz, along with other imaging companies, can and do write custom music for stations with a variety of styles and intensities on a theme covering a range of emotions. Foster Kent, as most production houses do, also offers an “off the shelf” library for news, weather, sports, traffic, politics, games and more, that can be mixed and matched to time perfectly musically.

Ideally, Grobman says, “A jingle package should be complete and varied enough so that producers don’t have to dip into outside collections.”

What Else Can We Learn From The Europeans?

Everling notes that when it comes to jingles, radio here in the U.S. has gotten more conservative. “Once, U.S. radio led the way, providing Europeans with benchmarks for station imaging, but the roles have changed,” he says. “A lot of radio stations in America still use traditional, cliche-driven audio branding and imaging tools featuring the big orchestral sound or guitar-oriented big orchestras, while European radio is more adventurous and innovative.”

Why? Everling believes it’s fear-driven. He says, “Stations are afraid they’ll play something the listener doesn’t know. They create what they think their listeners expect – or worse: what the other stations are doing rather than designing their imaging, based on their branding. In Europe, many N/T or full-service stations are careful to avoid what they often refer to as a ‘CNN-sound’: the cliché big orchestra sound.” He says the challenge both in Europe and America is “finding the compromise between a contemporary sound and an authoritative, trustworthy image.”

What is the true test of selecting or creating a new jingle? If, after the first few times you hear it, it sticks in your head, it works.

About the Author

Valerie Geller, president of Geller Media International Broadcast Consultants, works to help communicators become more powerful in 30 countries, including Australia, for news, talk, information and personality. Through consulting and individual coaching for news and talk talent, Geller finds and develops personalities, leads “Creating Powerful Radio” and “Communicate Powerfully” workshops and seminars for radio and TV broadcasters, internet radio and podcasters. Geller is the recipient of the Conclave’s 2010 Rockwell Lifetime Achievement Award and is the author of four books about radio including her latest from Elsevier’s Focal Press Beyond Powerful Radio – A Communicator’s Guide to the Internet Age. To contact Valerie Geller for a one-on-one coaching or consulting, appointment, or for information on the “Powerful Radio” seminars and workshops, call +1 212 580-3385

Note: This is an edited version of an article that first appeared on and has been republished with permission.