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1 Comment | Jul 26, 2011

How To Make A Sonic Bust

During my non-poetic college years, one of the electives I took in my copywriting studies was Radio/TV Copywriting. The instructor was a local advertising pro, and I really enjoyed the course because we spent class time actually practicing and learning to write radio and TV scripts. Plus, our homework was to simply write scripts, we didn’t spend a lot of time plowing through a text book, and it met only one night a week for three hours, which gave me more time to pursue my other studies. For whatever reasons, I remember our assignment one week was to pick some national brand and write two 60 second radio scripts to be sung to the tune of a current or fairly recent pop song. I also clearly recall I chose Weight Watchers(?) and wrote my scripts to the tune of Greg Kihn’s Jeopardy (keenly changing “My love’s in jeopardy” to “My weight’s in jeopardy“) and Eddie Murphy’s Party All The Time (where I non-poetically turned “My girl wants to party all the time” into “You don’t have to diet all the time“).

The night the assignment was due, we read all the spots in class and, aside from the girl who wrote her spots to tunes by contemporary Christian singer Sandi Patty(?), everyone else’s were about as hokey as mine, which is pretty much what one would expect when adapting someone else’s song into an ad jingle. Granted, there are certain songs that just beg to be used in ads, but most don’t lend themselves to jingles, especially if they gained any airplay.

With all that said, I usually try to keep my criticism of other ads to a minimum (aside from my annual Super Bowl Ad Awards For The Non-Poetic. Oh, and here…) and I mentioned my first jingle forays because I recently saw a new TV spot for Sonic that featured a jingle that was apparently written as a college TV writing assignment and somehow got produced and aired:

So, where to start? First off, if you’re unfamiliar with it, the jingle in that spot is sung to the tune of You Can Do Magic, which charted for the band America in 1982. As such, it’s not a song that many of Sonic’s target audience was alive to hear when it was a hit and thus, any connection is likely lost.  Further, the agency couldn’t come up with their own original jingle? Yea, I get the subliminal “magic” reference but apparently Heart, The Cars, The Police, Genesis, Lovin’ Spoonful, Steppenwolf, ELO, Olivia Newton John, and many more didn’t feel like whoring out their songs with “magic” in the title to schlep fast food. (Note, don’t blame America (the band, not the country), as You Can Do Magic was written by English singer-songwriter Russ Ballard.)

Then we have the actual line, “This is how you Sonic!” As a tagline, it’s nothing special, bordering on lame. Apart from a weak attempt to turn “Sonic” into a verb (which is, no doubt, an attempt to enter it into America’s everyday vernacular), this almost feels like the agency already had the rights to the song and literally jammed Sonic’s tagline (with an extra word!) into it. And again, this was the best they could do? We had to turn to a 30 year old song because we couldn’t come up with anything more original?

Next, there’s the takeaway, “You can have everything your heart desires!” There are plenty of ways to say that, and it’s pretty simple and easy to work into some form of an original script, right? But no, this feels like the song was purchased specifically to use that phrase and every other square peg was jammed into a the round hole. And, if the message they want to convey is, “Come to Sonic and get your food, your way,” the best way they could say that was to buy and modify a song with the lyrics “anything your heart desires”? To me, that says “We shot our wad on the tagline and we’re so unoriginal that we’ll just buy a song that says your heart desires and write around it.” And don’t forget that Burger King basically said the same thing, and said it better, in the 70’s…

By now, you’re probably saying, “That’s great, but can you do it any better, non-poet boy?” Well, Sonic has already beaten us to the punch, as you can go to thisishowyouconic.com and make your own Sonic TV trailer and win prizes! They don’t let you do your own jingle, but I guarantee any one of us could do better than what they’ve got now!

With all that said, the design and production of the spot is sharp and eye-catching (though to my eye, the daydream sequence is somewhat derivative of the NSFW dream sequence in The Big Lebowski, though that may just be me…), but it’s overshadowed by the bad jingle that should have never gotten past the brainstorm stage. Instead, we’re left with a forced tagline and a bland, unoriginal takeaway line that, though it offers “everything your heart desires,” actually leaves a lot to be desired.

The moral to this story is, you can be creative but not be original. However, if you’re not gonna be original and force your concept into someone else’s original idea, you certainly need to be creative. Put it all together and Sonic’s This Is How You Sonic spot makes me want to show the world This is How You Vomit!

(Oh, and just so the folks at Sonic and their agency won’t feel singled out, here’s another violation of America (in this case the country, not the band) from Old Navy. Like Sonic’s spot, this one should have been shot down long before it got to the launch pad… And yea, you heard that right! There’s no better way to celebrate America’s independence than singing “Old Navy tis of thee…“)

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