Under the Influence

Under The Influence host Terry O'Reilly answers listener questions

From why some commercials overstay their welcome, to whether lawn signs really affect elections, to the inspiration behind the Under The Influence theme song, host Terry O'Reilly answers social media questions.

From the inspiration behind the Under The Influence theme song, to why some commercials overstay their welcome, to whether lawn signs really affect elections, host Terry O'Reilly answers listener questions sent through social media.

@sireland30 asks on Instagram:

"I'm curious about the inspiration behind the intro theme songs to both Age of Persuasion and Under The Influence. Was there an intended feeling or image you wanted the listener to imagine? Do marketers purposefully craft songs/themes and jingles to promote warm feelings toward their products?"

Well, let me answer your last question first.

Yes, all marketers purposely craft music to fit their brand or the advertising idea in a commercial.

Many times, the music is composed to fit the idea of the commercial. For example, if it was a beer commercial, the music would be written accordingly – to be cool and fun.

If it was a dramatic car commercial – showing a car zooming along a winding road - the music would be exciting.

As for the theme music for Under The Influence, when we first talked to composers Ari Posner and Ian Lefeuvre, we wanted the theme to reflect the show we had planned. We wanted it to sound interesting but cheeky, with lots of twists and turns. We wanted it to be instantly recognizable and we wanted it to reflect the humour of the show.

Plus, we asked them to create five little pockets in the theme where we could insert famous advertising slogans – as you hear at the start of each episode. And as you may have noticed, each of those slogans begins with the word "You're" which eventually leads into "You're Under The Influence."

I love our theme song.

On Facebook, Dave Thielking asks:

"What happened to all of the physical media that held commercials? For example, the 16mm film for TV or the tapes for radio. Are there classic commercials that will never been seen again? Did anyone archive this stuff or is it gone forever?"

That's an excellent – and important – question, Dave.

Now that everything has gone digital, I think a lot of that old media is now lost to the sands of time. Or let me be more precise: Canadian commercials are being lost to the sands of time.

Doing research for this show reveals a lot about the state of commercial archives.

I can say, without any hesitation, that I can find virtually any ad or commercial ever done in the United States. Americans are serious about archiving their marketing history.

On the other hand, it's extremely difficult in Canada to find past ads. An online Canadian advertising museum tried to get off the ground a few years ago, but stalled due to funding issues.

Our company, Pirate, donated over 50,000 commercials to McMaster University a number of years ago.

Ads and commercials reflect every decade and are a fascinating way to research an era. In the archives we donated to McMaster, you will find the first cellular phone advertising, the first AIDS public service announcements, Olympic advertising, federal and provincial election advertising, post-SARS advertising for the city of Toronto, advertising for famous brands that are long gone – like Eatons and Canadian Airlines and much, much more.

A friend of mine once saw some of my advertising work in a museum in Japan, yet you wouldn't be able to find it here in Canada.

It's a shame that Canada hasn't taken a major step to preserve its advertising history – and that's my two cents.

On Twitter, Allan Kelly asks an interesting question:

"What's the oldest tagline still used today?"

That's a tough one to pin down. I'm going to say the oldest slogan still in use today might be for Ivory Soap.

The slogan: 99 44/100th percent pure.

It was created in 1882 and is still on the packaging today.

Dr. Trent Tucker sends us an interesting question on Twitter. He asks:

"Do lawn signs make any difference in an election?"

I'm going to give you my personal answer to this:


I believe lawn signs signal momentum in an election. That momentum for a particular party may sway undecided voters.

There is a truism in marketing – and you see it used all the time on car lots.

When dealerships put SOLD signs on cars – it attracts business. It could be that potential car buyers sense there are deals to be had at that dealership, or that the brand of car is extremely popular for a reason.

In any event, it spurs activity.

The bigger, more important element in elections is getting the vote out. Politicians may have a big block of supporters, but getting them out to the polls is the trick.

In the latest Ontario election, 58% voted.

It was the highest turnout in 20 years. There were a lot of lawn signs up in this election. Maybe being surrounded by lawn signs might have spurred unmotivated voters to step up this time.

Bob Prentice and Debbie Garland pose similar questions about annoying commercials:

"Some ad campaigns seem to overstay their welcome. Is it an ad agency decision to continue? The company's lack of future budget for new ads? Cheap media rates? Or is it a combo of many things?"

The quick answer is: The commercial is still on the air because it's still working.

It's a mysterious aspect of marketing – sometimes a commercial that is annoying can still drive sales.

Or – and I've said this often – an annoying commercial is annoying because it isn't aimed at you. It's aimed at a different audience – and that audience isn't annoyed.

This reminds me of a funny and insightful story about a famous adman from the 50s and 60s, named Rosser Reeves.

Reeves is famous in advertising because he developed an advertising concept called the "USP" or "Unique Selling Proposition."

In a nutshell, Reeves believed a brand should be built around the single biggest benefit the product delivers. He believed all advertising should pivot on the one thing that makes that product unique.

And he believed in repetition. Lots of repetition.

With that philosophy, Rosser Reeves attracted a lot of clients and built a very big advertising agency.

But it has to be said that Reeves also created advertising that made people hate advertising.

Here's a taste of Reeves' handiwork for Anacin. This commercial actually ran on Ed Sullivan the night the Beatles first appeared on the show in February of 1964:

That commercial ran unchanged for seven years.

It probably created as many headaches as it relieved. Sales tripled. That commercial made more money for Anacin than Gone With The Wind and it was made for $8,000.

When another client of Reeves complained that his commercial hadn't been changed in five years and demanded to know what the 120 people working on his account were getting paid for, Reeves said, "Their getting paid to keep you from changing your ad."

Reeves believed in running an ad until he had wrung every last sale out of it.

An interesting side note: Adman David Ogilvy was the polar opposite of Rosser Reeves. He believed in creating classy commercials, commercials that told stories and were a pleasure to watch.

Ogilvy railed against Reeves' philosophy and one day Ogilvy told him his repetitive commercials were irritating.

Reeves just looked at Ogilvy and said, "Do you want to be liked or do you want to be successful?"

And there you have the divide between two advertising giants with two conflicting advertising philosophies.

Here's the second side note: Ogilvy and Reeves were brothers-in-law.

For these questions and more from Under The Influence, click or tap on the "Listen" tab to hear the full episode.

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Under The Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio - a 1969 Airstream trailer that's been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O'Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

Follow the journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and search for the hashtag: #Terstream.