The world, and especially the internet, took a walk down Nostalgia Boulevard as Toys “R” Us officially closed their doors on Friday and bid the beloved (albeit debt-riddled) toy chain adieu.
There were fond memories about weekend trips to the toy mecca and plenty of acknowledgment and sadness about the brand’s mascot since 1965, Geoffrey, heading off into the sunset.
Toys “R” Us’ closure isn’t necessarily just the end of an era for adults that grew up with the brand, but its one that casts light on the jingle that most people, of a certain age, can recite by memory. While audio continues its comeback in the form of podcasts, voice-enabled technology and projects that help people suffering from certain diseases like ALS, commercial jingles are not nearly as prevalent as they were in the past. In fact, most of the subjective “best of” jingle lists are loaded with work from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
“The few jingles that have stood the test of time continue to work and resonate because they’ve been consistent over decades and trigger familiarity and comfort,” said Joel Beckerman, founder and composer at Man Made Music.
More contemporary jingles and stings like McDonalds’ 2003 “I’m Lovin’ It” and Nationwide’s hummable ditty stand out, but the Toys “R” Us jingle is a classic example of that earworm that isn’t easy to shake and didn’t have an initial fan in one of its creators.
“I didn’t know if it was good enough,” Linda Kaplan Thaler, co-author of the tagline and song recently told CNN. Her boss at the time may have hinted that a hit was on hand as he told her, “I can’t stop singing it.”
Then a junior copywriter in 1982 at J. Walter Thompson in New York, she came up with “I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid” with crime novelist James Patterson, who was then a colleague at the agency.
Crafting the song using a toy piano (a brilliant move designed to help her envision how a kid might sing), this was her first large-scale national campaign. She told Inside Edition that they “never thought it was going to go on for so long.”
Indeed, the song endured for decades, but could this be the end of the jingle, in its classic form, as a workhorse for brands?
“Nowadays if anyone sings a song with a product name in it, eyes roll. Audiences are way more sophisticated now and are really yearning for emotional connections to the brands they favor,” said Beckerman, who advocates for a wider, overall sonic strategy. “Jingles don’t cut it in part because they don’t scale across platforms.”
Though Beckerman may have the ear of others who believe the tactic remains powerful, the question remains: Was Toys “R” Us one of history’s greatest jingles? As we say goodbye to (and celebrate) the brand, in some corners, it is most deserving of the honor.