October 29, 2019

The Only Prescription…is Music in Pharmaceutical Commercials

Tuesdays With Coleman

I am 46 years old, which means I fall squarely in the wheelhouse of Generation X.

I’m now in the upper end of the 25-54 demo (if you’re like me, the moment you check the 45-54 box for the first time is the genesis of realization).

Most people tell me I don’t look 46.

I don’t feel 46, except when I throw my back out or my shoulder fails me during Sunday morning basketball.

And thankfully, I can always count on Legacy drug rehabilitation to provide reliable information on prescription drug commercials to remind me that I’m still really young!

Take the new TV spot from Trelegy, an inhaler for COPD patients.



“Tre-le-gy…power of 1-2-3.”

Hey! That’s The Jackson 5!

“ABC” came out in 1970. If you graduated high school the year it was a current, you’d be 67. Seems to make sense from a targeting standpoint.

Perhaps you’ve seen the spot for Ozempic a non-insulin medication to lower your blood sugar.


Hey! That’s Magic by Pilot!

“Magic” came out in 1974. If you graduated high school the year it was a current, you’d be 63. Also seems to make sense from a targeting standpoint.

Then, most recently, I came across the spot for Jardiance. Like Ozempic, Jardiance is a medication used to treat Type 2 diabetes.

The spot for Jardiance doesn’t blatantly use a classic song for its jingle, but listen carefully to the music bed. It didn’t hit me at first, but when I recognized it, I let out a deep sigh and hung my head low.



No. Oh, no. It’s a jazzy version of “Apache (Jump On It)” by The Sugarhill Gang.

“Apache” was released on the album “8th Wonder” in….1981.

The prescription drug companies have done it…using 80s music in their spots. Warning us about urinary tract infections over a Hip Hop classic no less.

But you know what? That’s what they should be doing.

Campaigns evolve because we evolve. Deciding when to make targeting shifts is a tricky proposition for advertisers. It’s a challenge for anyone in charge of producing content – from TV networks to the movie industry to radio stations to podcasters.

But, it’s also a necessity. One of the things our clients tell us they find most valuable in their research studies is the guidance they get regarding things like shifting music tastes and the age relevance of their content.

Drug companies shouldn’t target their potential customers the same way they did 10 years ago, and the same is probably true of your brand.

So just wait, 40 year-olds….you graduated high school the year The Backstreet Boys dropped “Quit Playing Games With My Heart”.

In 25 years, you’ll hear it in a Lipitor commercial.

21 thoughts on “The Only Prescription…is Music in Pharmaceutical Commercials”

    1. Jim Wehmeier

      The first to do Apache was Morgan Ingman in 1961, followed later by the Ventures (also did Telstar) and then in 1969 by the Shadows.

  1. John Baker

    Actually the year was 1960, not 1950, by the Shadows. Ventures covered it in 1962. Sugar Hill guys were probably not born in 1960 or in diapers. Check out the 1969 version on You Tube

  2. Marcus

    This Jardiance spot for has been bothering me to no end, wondering what that ‘tune’ was.. Thanks for making this clear now. I noticed all the other pharmaceuticals have been using popular baby boomer songs lately. I bet they have to pay handsomely for the privilege even if it’s a ‘Jazzy’ version of a popular song. Reminding these baby boomers of happier times when they were healthy

    Like you said, I’m also 47 and I’ve noticed financial planning spots have bee playing 80’s songs (not the elevator version) Like Fidelity using The Fixx in their commercials. Or OMD’s ‘If You Leave’., I guess I’m in that demographic that starts thinking about making sure retirement is in order. And to be honest I have been checking my 401k lately to see if it’s on track. Sad but true..

    1. Larry

      We recognized the Jorgen ingman tune right away and I wondered why they used a late 50’s early 60s tube and wife says type 2’s are old enough but it looks like from the comments as we thought many don’t remember

  3. Dave

    I wish people would do their homework — especially in the area of popular music. “Apache” was not originally done by the Incredible Bongo Band or the Sugarhill Gang or any other fairly recent musical act. The original was recorded by the British group The Shadows. It was A NUMBER ONE HIT in 1961 by Danish jazz guitarist Jordan Ingmann. People, please, get your facts straight!!

    1. Mary Graham

      Is there anything as bad as a “conductor” with zero rhythm and zero music background? It concept is an INSULT to the audience!
      That Jardiance commercial with “Audrey’s on it” is so awful that I can’t stand to even watch it. SHE HAS ZERO RHYTHM!
      (Yes, I’ve heard all about the popularity of “negative ads.” It was “de rigueur” a few years ago; it ran in Ad Age and became a new book in the Ad Age Bible.
      But, when there are so many negative comments, they don’t kill the ad, but they DO kill the comments and continue running the ad.
      I can’t get to the control fast enough to get rid of Awful Audrey and her AWKWARDLY FLOPPING ARMS (with zero rhythm) and her AWKWARDLY STOMPING FEET (with zero rhythm) and her SMIRKING FACE, as if she KNOWS she is awful but doesn’t care. Not only does she have zero rhythm, but she has NO idea on how to conduct music. (Those of us who took music classes were also given lessons on how to conduct. Clearly, she has never even had a music class in her life.)
      WHY DIDN’T THEY INSIST ON SOMEONE WITH A MUJSICAL BACKGROUND as part of the conditions for the audition? That would not be out of line when they are casting actors and/or actresses for a TV commercial. Most actors have a bit of music in their backgrounds.
      WHY not just use the marching band? They are excellent and in synch.
      Just last week, we saw Sorcha Cusack directing a choir on Father Brown. Clearly, a well rounded actress, Cusack has had enough music in her background to know how to do simple conducting.
      Yet, AUDREY IS SO AWFUL that she is out of step with the band. AUDREY IS SO AWFUL that she is out of sync with her floppy jerky arm movements. And what is it about Awful Audrey’s ARROGANT STARE? She clearly looks down her nose at the entire world (while screwing up the entire time) so WHY does she get off being arrogant?
      Jardiance has SO MUCH disdain for their customers but there is no way to get their attention.
      I am MIGHTILY annoyed when a comment section is negative, but instead of listening, the PRECIOUS drug companies and/or SUPER SENSTIVE ad agencies) close it down.
      Why not listen, and pull the disgusting ad, and NOT make ads like that anymore?

      1. Mark L

        So happy to read your thoughts on this ad, as I’ve thought the same thing and had the same “turn her off, quick!” reaction for so long. I couldn’t have said it any better; thank you.

  4. Wil

    Thank you so much for making this article, you seem to be the only other person that cares that they used Apache in the way that they did! I’m a 20 year old Jazz musician in Uni for a degree in Music, and I listened to the song that was playing in the background at 3 in the morning when that commercial cane on, and I noticed the melodic phrase seemed a little familiar. I played it back in my head over and over until I remembered the melody and some of the lyrics! A Google search later and, because of your article and your article only, I discovered the song. Thank you for noticing something I thought only I did

  5. Ronald Stefanski

    As I remember it, the Jorgen Ingmann version was a triumph of a then new recording technology: overdubbing. There is only one musician playing in that recording. All the percussive sounds, rhythm and lead guitar was provided by Ingmann himself.

  6. Michael Cox

    I remember all three versions of the song Apache. Jerry Lordan is the writer credited as the writer. The fist band to record and play the song was the Shadows, then Mr. Ingman,and final LL y in 1965 the Ventures version. Which was lol abwled Apache 65. I grew up with this music. I even still play some of it.

  7. Pingback: Striking a Chord: The Power of Music in Advertising – Martin Hall Agency

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