In 1956, B.C. Clark Jr. paid a local ad agency $300 to create a jingle. Five years later he thought the catchy jingle had lost its impact and aired a new one. A barrage of complaints during the 1961 Christmas season quickly persuaded him to put the original back on the air.
Back then the son of the store’s original owner realized the jingle was more than a seasonal promotion. In just a few years it had become part of Oklahoma City’s Christmas tradition.
Decades later the jingle is so engrained in the city’s holiday rituals that residents can sing it from memory. “It’s the No. 1 requested song [for radio stations] during the holidays,” says Mitchell Clark, executive vice president and marketing director for B.C. Clark Jewelers.
During the holidays the jingle is as common as “Jingle Bells.” It’s sung in school Christmas programs, church pageants, even by neighborhood carolers. “In 2009 the sheet music page on the jingle Web site had 1,400 unique hits,” says Clark.
Many people have sung or performed the jingle for large audiences, including local hockey players and choirs, chorales and orchestras of all sizes, and national celebrities. Actress Megan Mullally, originally from Oklahoma City, sang the jingle during a January 2001 appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and once on her own show years later.
Well-known piano juggler Dan Menendez performed the jingle during halftime at a professional basketball game while wearing a B.C. Clark Jewelers’ holiday sweat-shirt, one of many clothing items featuring the words to the jingle.
The original TV ads with a cartoon Santa gliding over snowdrifts in his sleigh or the follow-the-bouncing-ball commercials with lit candles in festive holiday colors as a backdrop are still aired as part of the jingle’s nostalgic grip on the local market. But these “let’s all go to the lobby”-era commercials were just the beginning for the jingle that worked well in the early years in a variety of formats, including print.
The opening line “jewelry is the gift to give” has been the most commonly used lyrics for newspaper ads, catalogs, and brochures since the jingle was created. But the Clark family wanted their prized jingle to have a more dynamic marketing component emphasizing the local market’s familiarity with the jingle. “Beginning on Thanksgiving Day, to most Oklahomans, hearing the jingle signals the beginning of the Christmas season,” says Clark.
In 1983 B.C. Clark started its hugely successful man-on-the-street TV and radio campaigns, which are still used today. Radio announcements aired before Thanksgiving Day weekend have become casting calls that bring in singing talents at assigned locations in the city such as shopping malls and local landmarks for filming.
“We have a week to review the clips of people singing the jingle, then edit them together by early December for that season’s holiday campaign,” says Clark. With hundreds of people showing up for the chance to appear in the holiday ad, the interactive component of the Christmas campaign made it an ideal segue to going viral on the Internet.
The original 1956 ad has received nearly 21,000 unique views in the two years it has been on YouTube. Two decades’ worth of man-on-the-street campaigns also can be viewed on YouTube (as well the jingle’s dedicated Web site). Oklahoma City residents have produced their own videos singing and performing the jingle, which fill several search results pages on YouTube. Most notable are the families that have incorporated the jingle in a synchronized outdoor Christmas light display.
The number and range of YouTube videos, from families singing the jingle in their living room around the Christmas tree to an instrumental guitarist, were the impetus for last year’s video competition with Facebook’s uVizz as the submission point.
“The best part about this promotion was seeing the unique ways people could perform the jingle,” says Clark. “We saw an interesting variety [of videos] including tap dancers, an elementary school choir, a whistling guitar player, and two girls dressed up as Christmas trees. A monetary incentive was also given for sharing these videos through Facebook with the idea of getting the videos to go viral.”
Of all the social media Web sites, Facebook has been the most successful in taking the jingle viral. The jingle’s Facebook page has over 8,300 fans. What’s surprising to Clark is only 3,400 are from Oklahoma City. “There are 4,700 jingle fans from other states with many displaced Okies sending in e-mails saying, ‘It’s not Christmas without the B.C. Clark jingle,'” says Clark. “We also have 140 fans in Canada, 16 in Germany, 11 in the United Kingdom, 8 in Italy and 2 in Iraq—we’re assuming they are U.S. serviceman.”
B.C. Clark’s holiday music CD, which features two versions of the jingle along with traditional Christmas songs, has sold 2,000 copies since 1997 and also has a Facebook presence. The CD sleeve artwork is used as a graphic for two Facebook groups with a combined membership totaling nearly 900 people. Facebook even has an “I Hate the B.C. Clark Jingle. Please, sweet baby Jesus, make it stop” group with 13 members.
When the jingle turned 50 in 2006, its dedicated Web site helped it go from viral to an online pandemic. The site has many interactive features including a dedicated e-mail and ring-tone download for cell phones, which also can be purchased on the iTunes Web site. “It has such a big following that it’s out of our hands,” says Clark. “If the store closed tomorrow, the jingle would live on.”
After all these years the Clark family can’t link sales directly to the jingle, but the pre-Christmas anniversary sale has done well in terms of the number and average ticket sales since the commercial was first aired in 1956. “The jingle is all about our anniversary sale, which must go on year after year,” says Clark. “But we have no complaints, as it always proves to be a success, and it is something our customers look forward to each year.”