I have been brainwashed. My mind is being held hostage – by Madison Avenue.
The other day my wife and I were in the car and somehow the word “buckle” came up. We immediately both sang:
“Buckle up for safety, buckle up
Buckle up for safety, always buckle up
Pull your seat belt snug, give an extra tug
Buckle up for safety, always buckle up.”
This may not mean much to you if you are younger than, say, about 55 or so. It’s a jingle that was part of the National Safety Council’s campaign to get people to wear seat belts in the mid-1960s. Back then, no one wore seat belts. Our scientists were making plans to send people to the moon and yet cars had only skinny little seat belts that no one paid any attention to. Kids would stand up in the front seats of cars as you sped down the highway at 70 mph.
What bothers me is not that humans were so stupid back then (because we’re just as stupid now, just about different things), but that my wife and I could actually sing the “Buckle Up” song word-for-word.
We were impressionable little kids back then, and it appears our minds ended up being stuffed full of songs designed to either alter our behavior or influence us to nag our parents to buy something for us.
Can I remember all that algebra from high school? No. Can I recall the Periodic Table of Elements? No. Can I recite poetry or even remember a famous poet’s name? No.
But I can sing the Armour hot dog song like I just heard it yesterday:
“Hot dogs. Armour hot dogs.
What kind of kids love Armour hot dogs?
Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks,
Tough kids, sissy kids, even kids with chicken pox
Love hot dogs, Armour hot dogs,
The dogs kids love to bite.”
How is it possible that the Amour hot dog song is forever inscribed in my memory? Someday I will get old(er) and probably even forget my own name, but I will be able to sing that song.
You couldn’t even make that commercial today – “fat kids” and “sissy kids” would be sure to offend someone, so you’d have to change the words. It would have to be “full-bodied kids” and “emotionally sensitive kids,” which would kind of mess up the rhythm of the song.
I can also sing the Doublemint gum song (remember the twins? I kind of had a crush on them), the Cracker Jack song (“What do you want when you gotta eat something …”), the Frito Bandito song (“Ai, yi, yi, yi, I am the Frito Bandito …”), and, of course, songs for various brands of cigarettes (“Winston tastes good like a cigarette should”).
Do you see a trend? They all appeared to be created to convince little kids like me to consume things that had dubious nutritional quality or that were downright harmful to my future well-being.
But the real problem isn’t that I ate all those hot dogs and Fritos, it is that here I am, 50 years later, and my limited brain capacity is still filled with old advertising jingles.
This made me so uneasy I decided to give Madison Avenue a piece of my mind (hopefully the piece cluttered up with all their songs), but then I found out Madison Avenue isn’t really a thing anymore. Most ad agencies took their ill-gained cash and moved somewhere else. I guess that’s what I get for being a member of the Pepsi Generation — wait, that reminds me of a song …