Jingles bells, jingles bells… Must advertisers rework every holiday hymn into silly jingle?

December 11, 2009

Below are lyrics to a new holiday commercial for the Illinois Lottery from Chicago ad agency, Energy BBDO. They are sung to the music of Joy to the World.

Joy to that guy/who took away your futon

And the man who shampooed and conditioned your carpets

And the lady who constructed/Your amazing cat tower

Plus the butcher who sliced your beef paper thin

And the neighbor who rocks out softly after ten.

I print the lyrics here partly because they were so easy to get. In yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, columnist, John Kass did a piece about the ad campaign. He takes umbrage at reworking the classic hymn into a cheesy commercial about winning money. In case you missed it, here is his closing argument:

“I suppose they could have made a commercial using a secular Santa song, or something about drunken elves throwing snowballs and guzzling mulled wine. No one would care, except lawyers for the Snowman & Elf Collective. And no political bureaucrat would ever risk being condemned as insensitive by elves. Slapping Christianity, though, is another matter.”

Slapping Christianity? Ouch! Harsh words, Mr. Kass. I’m not sure many people take this, or any other carol, so seriously. Maybe we should. I don’t know. My fault with the work is less extreme. And it’s one I have with a lot of holiday themed ad campaigns. (The Illinois Lottery is far from alone.) For me, their original sin was reworking a Christmas carol in the first place. Rewriting lyrics is such a tired concept it’s not even a concept. It’s the thing you do in lieu of a concept.

I realize how tough it is being creative during the frenzied holiday season. Everyone and their brother is buying and/or selling stuff. Or not buying and/or selling stuff. Either way, retailers and consumers are dancing as fast as they can. It’s easy to see why agency’s default to holiday cliché’s. But I wish we wouldn’t. After all, one doesn’t have to wear a sweater with twinkling lights just because it’s the holidays.

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6 Responses to “Jingles bells, jingles bells… Must advertisers rework every holiday hymn into silly jingle?”

  1. Peaches said

    So true. Hacky. Lazy. Cloying. Embarassing.

  2. Dan said

    There’s something about the Christmas season that brings out the cheesy in just about everyone. But maybe that’s why the really great ideas stick out even more this time of year.

    There seems to be one great every year, or at least every couple years. Still waiting for this years wow campaign though.

  3. Not related to this post… but i know you love zombies: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118012601.html?categoryid=13&cs=1

    • SRP said

      RE: Pride & Zombies-
      Actually, I was not a fan of the book, which I bought a long time ago. Too silly. However, if they get the movie right I’m in…

  4. supdog said

    Occasionally commercials have done a good job of reappropriating an existing song and reworking its lyrics to fit the brand. “I’d like to buy the world a coke” comes to mind. Although not an original solution, sometimes it works.

    I can’t think of a good christmas carol example, though, so you’re probably right about that. They always seem cheesy.

    To rework a song about the Savior coming-joy to the world- in this fashion shows not that few people take it seriously, but rather that those rewriting it don’t take it seriously. Or they believe that like them few take it seriously enough to take issue with it.

    Kass is correct in calling it a slap to Christianity because it demonstrates again that those things Christian are easily disrespected or dismissed. I can’t imagine reworking a song whose origins referenced allah, mohammed, or islam. It would not make get through the local agency pc police.

    Funny, though, how the same pc police would kill an idea that piously referenced christmas for fear of offending non Christians, does not bat an eye when there is a chance of offending Christians.

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