Radio: The Godfather of Native Advertising

For anyone to suggest that Native Advertising is an invention of the 21st century would probably need to a take a hard look at our great American past… or perhaps a long hard listen, to their radios.

Tough as it is to imagine, life did exist before the Internet. It was a time when people spoke to one another on phones that were attached to long, tangly wires. Scary, I know. And even further back when people couldn’t just load up Spotify and listen to literally any song that’s ever been released- at any given moment in their day.

It was a simpler time.

Almost a hundred years ago, during the roaring 20s, when every family had a radio in their home, both children and parents would gather around the Zenith to enjoy their favorite soap operasquiz showsvariety hourstalent showssituation comedieschildren's shows, as well as live musical concerts and play by play sports broadcasts.[1] And thus, the great media behemoth, radio, was king.

But as car culture encompassed America, and car audio speakers became a bit more sophisticated, it was music that began to rule the airwaves. From coast to coast, motorists became rulers of the radio dial, a symbol of liberty that allowed us to tune into whatever kind of beats made us boogie; whatever jams made us jive. 

And in betwixt those jiving disc jockeys and songs about long-lost love came the radio jingle. Songs hidden between songs, native to their media environment; clandestine in their commerciality. And the godfather of native advertising was born.

As smooth as a transition from one hit song to the next… a bassline would start up, maybe a little banjo and percussion and then, “Hot dogs, Armour hot dogs…”  or Alka-Seltzer’s now infamous “Pop, pop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is!” And many, so esoteric at first, it was difficult to discern whether it was a brand new song or a brand trying to sell you something. And before you knew it, you weren’t just bopping your head along to the song, you were being advertised to.

Of course with the changing popular music genres, the genre in which the jingles would take on would change too, and branch to other mediums, giving us infamous campaigns like Ray Charles crooning about Diet Pepsi or Michael Jackson sipping a regular one.

So amidst all this hubbub about native, indigenous – or whatever new names we give to this hyper-relevant trend in advertising, lest us not forget that not only is it not new, but it’s actually very much an oldie.