Doritos, the tortilla chip maker, is sponsoring a "Crash the Super Bowl" party, inviting people to create a Doritos TV ad and win $1 million. "This Super Bowl," the copy on crashthesuperbowl.com reads, "who will have the best ad? Doritos is putting up $1 million that says YOU will. It's time to take down the ad pros."
The contest runs through Nov. 16.
I don't know about you, but right around now I could use an extra million bucks.
So, how best to win the Doritos contest? My thinking was: If you are going to take down the ad pros, who better to do it than an ad pro?
And not just any advertising pro, either. I figured that if I was going to have any chance of getting my hands on the $1 million from Doritos, I needed to check in with Richard Trentlage.
When I phoned Trentlage earlier this week, he hadn't heard about the Doritos contest. He said he would check it out on the Web that night and we could talk in the morning.
Many readers may not be familiar with the name Richard Trentlage.
I can assure you, however, that you are familiar with his work. Trentlage had his greatest success when a major food company held a contest — in the manner of the Doritos Super Bowl ad — inviting people to submit commercial jingles, the best of which would be utilized in the company's new advertising campaign.
That company was based in Madison, and Trentlage won the contest.
Yes, Richard Trentlage wrote the Oscar Mayer wiener jingle.
I reprise it here, in all its glory:
"Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener
"That is what I'd truly like to be
"'Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener
"Everyone would be in love with me!"
I first spoke with Trentlage several years ago, after the Boston Globe published an article on the demise of the jingle — the cheerful tunes used to sell products on radio and television.
The Globe said advertisers now preferred well-known pop songs over original jingles.
But the paper also added this caveat: "Of course, there are exceptions. The Oscar Mayer wiener theme has been in constant rotation since 1963, and good money says everyone reading this newspaper can sing it start to finish."
When we spoke again this week, I asked Trentlage, who lives in Fox River Grove, Ill., if the Oscar Mayer wiener jingle is still in "rotation," as the Globe put it. Trentlage said it is.
"I got a check just the other day," he said.
Trentlage, who will be 80 in December, put his kids through college on royalties from the Oscar Mayer wiener jingle, and the money is still coming in.
Trentlage told me he continues to make appearances at service clubs to talk about the story behind the jingle, and not long ago he rode in the Wienermobile in a parade in Wisconsin Dells alongside a young boy who had won a nationwide contest singing the jingle.
Trentlage also recently self-published a book, "What's the Big Idea?," a how-to primer for perspective jingle writers. In it he dissects what makes a jingle great, including, of course, the Oscar Mayer wiener jingle, which Trentlage calls "the gem of my writing career."
Trentlage was working at an ad agency in Chicago in the early 1960s when a friend in the business told him that another agency, J. Walter Thompson, was sponsoring a jingle contest for its client Oscar Mayer.
Once Trentlage got around to checking it out, he learned the deadline for entries was the very next day.
That night at home, he went to work. After a few false starts, Trentlage wrote, "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener."
He recalled, "Then I thought: Why? Why do I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener?"
It came to him. "Because everyone would be in love with me."
Trentlage had his young son and daughter sing the jingle, then the next day took the tape to J. Walter Thompson. The rest is history. Up in Madison, Oscar G. Mayer pronounced it a masterpiece. Radio stations began getting calls requesting it, as if the jingle were a hit song.
Thursday morning, I phoned Trentlage again, after he'd had time to check out the Doritos Super Bowl commercial contest.
"The rules are daunting," he said.
There are several pages of rules. But the only one Trentlage really couldn't abide was the one about the music.
"They are not looking for original music at all," he said.
The rules state: "You may not include any music except for the pre-approved music provided on the Web site."
How can you tell the creator of the Oscar Mayer wiener jingle he can't compose his own music for a commercial? The answer is you can't.
I'm on my own.