8 jingles in 8 hours: Behind the SXSW Jingle Hack

Jingle Punks and Snapple celebrate a successful Jingle Hack in Austin / Ryan Muir for iHeartRadio

Some people take days, months or even years to write a catchy song. For the Jingle Punks – a songwriting troupe and creative agency that works on commercial jingles for brands and radio companies – churning out a worthy tune can take an hour, a point they proved at iHeartRadio in Austin during SXSW.

The radio and media company hosted a Jingle Hack event at its Austin creative studio, where the Jingle Punks met with eight different clients, building and recording jingles that will eventually land on iHeartMedia radio stations in key markets. The flurry of activity was inspirational, interesting, catchy and exhausting, but each client went away with a quality jingle that uniquely promoted their products.

The Jingle Hack Austin event came on the heels of a successful inaugural National Jingle Day in December 2016, where the Jingle Punks put together 13 jingles in a day. The slightly smaller hackathon in Austin was meant to help a bevy of iHeartMedia clients tell fun and uplifting stories, and it did so with success eight different times over the course of one day.

Jingle Punks was started by Jared Gutstadt, president and chief creative officer, and Dan Demole, managing director. They have crafted award-winning jingles for clients ranging from Good Morning America to the NFL and the ACLU. The crew of singers, instrumentalists and engineers are masters at turning a client brief into a sing-along jingle, and iHeartMedia utilizes them to help tell their clients’ aural stories.

“It’s amazing. For our clients, they really realize the power of sound,” said Gayle Troberman, executive vice president, CMO, iHeartMedia. “It shows how diverse every brand’s sound can be.”

Troberman has been working to help reignite creativity around audio and radio, because the reach is still there. In fact, Nielsen stated in its “State of the Media” report last year that 93% of adult consumers over the age of 18 use radio on a weekly basis.

She knows that to get to scale, brands must be able to reach as many consumers for as little as possible, and by using music and jingles they help stay top of mind with the consumers for an affordable cost.

Client: Snapple

One of the eight clients at the Austin Jingle Hack was Snapple, represented by Seth New, associate brand manager for the beverage company. After a brief setup from the previous client, the Jingle Punks got to work.

A brief from Snapple asked for a lighthearted feel, with pop music leading the way for the sound, with an undertone of a tropical feel. References from Snapple on a possible direction were for an Ed Sheeran-type sound – acoustic but poppy, irreverent and fun, like the brand itself. New also made sure that the Punks used the pop sound of a cap being removed, which they had previously incorporated in a campaign.

The Jingle Punks and Snapple join forces in the Austin iHeartRadio studio / Ryan Muir for iHeartRadio

The crew furiously started writing and ideating. Gutstadt started with the top line melody – essentially the hook.

“It’s what you want everybody remembering,” he said.

Next was establishing the tagline and keywords. The tag came from Snapple – “put some flavor in your break”. Gutstadt even noted that “marketing language is very lyrical”. Keywords included fun, flavorful tea, fruity, real and pop.

“It’s someone’s adventure on the way to their (work) break,” added Gutstadt, chugging a Snapple for inspiration. He added that the motivation was somebody having a tough day at the office and that Snapple is their much-needed break.

What made the Snapple session fun and productive, rather than the frantic mess it could have been, was the ease at which the Jingle Punks put the client. Before no time, New was an active participant, entering into the back-and-forth conversation with the musicians and producers where everyone had equal say.

The guitar and ukulele started riffing on a mildly tropical-pop beat, more Jack Johnson-meets-Jason Mraz than Ed Sheeran, but quite infectious, especially considering barely ten minutes had passed before the hook was solidified.

The sound engineer took the guitar riff and started to build out the layers of beats with his computer. Then a couple of lyricists sang forth their attempts. Quickly, the song started to come together. There would be a verse or two with a recognizable hook of a chorus. After a bit, someone pointed out that the word Snapple needed to be included, and that the line “take a big ass sip” should probably become “big ol’ sip.” Also, it was decided that utilizing some of the fun facts on the bottle caps would be a great way to thread the story.

As people read their facts, two jumped out as winners – the bullfrog is the only animal that doesn’t sleep, and the butterfly was originally called a flutterby.

When the lyrics were set, several of the vocalists took turns singing to create some diverse options for the engineer. Quite quickly, the whole crew and audience in the studio was grooving along with what ended up being a very infectious little tune, and a highly memorable one at that.

“I can add this to my campfire set,” joked Gutstadt as he strummed along.

After the vocals were laid down, they added some voiced whimsical asides, like the opener “fun facts” and some other crowd shouts, including one from New, who seemed comfortable in front of the microphone. Harmonies were then added and a jingle was born. Granted, the hour time limit meant that the one we heard was merely the rough cut, to be finessed off site later. Still, it was an absolute winner for the client, the Jingle Punks and iHeartMedia.

When asked what the most catchy, ear-wormy jingle they ever created, Gutstadt replied, “it might just be this one,” though he also admitted that ones they did for Outback Steakhouse and the ACLU were equally catchy.

Overall, the energy was great for the Snapple session and the client and the Jingle Punks walked out smiling ear to ear while humming the “Snapple puts flavor in your break” song.

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Kyle O'Brien

I am a reporter for The Drum covering a wide array of topics but always trying to tell the best stories possible. I am a former west coaster from California and Portland, Oregon, now living in Pennsylvania — with time spent in NYC each week.

I also play saxophone professionally.

All by Kyle