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Do you ever get a song in your head, just by reading copy?

Before I studied anything practical in college, I was a songwriting major at Manhattan School of Music (no one in the office knows that … ha!). I was taught to be highly tuned to any stimulus that could lead to a musical idea, be it other music, art … even industrial noise. I became very receptive to details of every environment, and I’m keen at noticing the little stuff. Perhaps I’m like most people, though, in terms of how I seem to have a song in my head all the time. Even when I’m prompted by something I read. …earworms are all around you, just waiting to be discovered. They’re precious. They make you think you’re IN on their little secret.

The typical “earworm” is when you hear a song, and it gets stuck in your head. That’s a thing, for sure. What I’m wondering about is … do you SEE a song (a title, a lyric, a snippet) and get it stuck in your head that way? And do you think advertisers are (or should be) using that as a technique to deepen their brand messaging?

One agency that seems to have embraced the practice of earworms very early on is DDB, who officially added an “earworm expert,” Dr. Daniel Müllensiefen, to their staff a number of years ago.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on understanding people,” said Sarah Carter, strategy director at DDB. “This will help us with the emotional side of advertising that tends to be overlooked by clients in favour of messages and more rational things.”*

DDB is perhaps best known for their iconic print and TV ads for the VW Beetle, going back to the 1960s, with their VW relationship continuing sporadically to the present day. The example below happens to be, in fact, from a VW brochure. Ready for an earworm, just by looking at something? Here you go:

What you see is a page from the brochure of the 1998 VW Beetle, which was VW’s BIG BIG year … the reintroduction of that iconic little love bug.

Look closely at that flower of cars there, and read that one simple copy line in the center: “One for each day of the week.” It makes me hear a song right away, but maybe I’m just weird. Read the copy line again. Count the cars. Get it? YOU HEAR THAT, RIGHT? Please let me know in the comments if you know the song, but don’t reveal it!

I’ll say that, at the time this piece was published, the band who wrote this song was protecting their copyright more fiercely than a mama elephant. There was simply no way to get a hold of one of their tunes to associate with your product, at any price. This brochure was an epic guerrilla marketing move. It surgically implanted a song, and at NO COST. No permissions or attributions needed.

Here’s an example from a campaign right here at DMW. It’s totally hooked me! Look at the line just above the addressing box and TELL ME YOU HEAR IT:


Perhaps, not the world’s greatest song ever, but there it is … an earworm at its finest. You are so welcome! Here’s another. Check out the headline and tell me what you hear:

Why of course it’s Van Halen’s “The Best of Both Worlds.” (But maybe I’m beginning to show some rock & roll nerdiness! Anyway … )

Indeed, content is, and should be, king … content that is actually meaningful and actively works to solve a problem at hand. But, given you’ve taken care of that … is it possible to drive it further, make it sink in hard and never let a prospect go, and even get them to act immediately?

Maybe earworms are all around you, just waiting to be discovered. They’re precious. They make you think you’re IN on their little secret that was meant just for you. Have YOU ever tried using one?

Well, it’s been great to finally get this out of my brain. If you have an earworm that you’re dying to insert into a campaign, and need help taking it to the streets (Doobie Brothers), we can help with that. And so much more.

*Source: Financial Times article, “DDB uses science to make ads catchy.”