Ad jingles never die nor do they fade away

September 04, 2001|By Susan Campbell | Susan Campbell,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The clue for the crossword puzzle was "but a Manwich is," the answer to which anyone over the age of 35 knows is "a meal." A sandwich is a sandwich, goes the old TV commercial, but a Manwich (a canned spicy tomato sauce usually added to hamburger) is a meal.

We remember things we don't mean to, trivial things, silly things.

For that, we can thank the likes of John Donch, and something called declarative memory.

Gathered in our mental nets are bits of information that don't serve a specified purpose. Old telephone numbers. Old addresses. Ad jingles from the '60s and '70s. Make that a lot of ad jingles.

When Donch and some colleagues were trying to pitch 7Up soda as a "real soft drink," and not just a "lemon-lime drink to soothe your stomach," they cycled through jingles from "just like a cola" to labeling it the "non-cola" to the even more nonconformist "The Uncola."

Donch insists there's no science to great ad writing, but there certainly is to memory. Brain researchers insist the average human can remember no more than seven [letters or numbers] in a sequence. Recalling a seldom-used phone number stretches us to our limits. It's why ads are so short.

As we age, memories fade, and the less we experienced the event stored in our memory - a one-time drive down a country lane, say - the more likely it is we will forget it. But that's OK, because forgetting allows us to make room for more memories.

Susan Campbell is a reporter for the Hartford Courant, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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