Jan 7, 2022 - News

The backstory behind a 1970s Columbus marketing jingle

Illustration of state of Ohio on an "On Air" Sign
Illustration: Allie Carl, Aïda Amer/Axios

Let us take you back to the year 1979. You're on the way to see "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and the Pina Colada Song is on the radio.

Suddenly, a commercial break, and you hear this jingle:

Warning: This thing has been stuck in our heads for the past day, and it will be for you, too.

There's much to love about this disco-era marketing jingle from the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

  • The way it sounds like the opening number to a Columbus-themed musical.
  • The frenetic banjo at the 42-second mark.

The big picture: A lot has changed since 1979, but not the insistence on presenting Columbus as the "star of the state" that's "growing like never before."

Context: The backstory reveals a city undergoing major social change.

  • Author Gregory S. Jacobs highlighted the jingle in his 1998 book "Getting Around Brown," a history of school desegregation in Columbus.

Flashback: In the late 70s, Jacobs writes, an "emerging crop of aggressive young entrepreneurs" believed the Chamber of Commerce had "for too long emphasized social issues at the expense of the Chamber's primary mission: economic development."

  • New Chamber leadership sought a different approach, launching the "Columbus: We're Making It Great!" campaign to promote the city to outsiders.
  • The organization's 1979 report noted: "We believe we have laid a solid foundation for a newer, bolder Columbus Chamber for the 1980s … In essence, we do not intend to be a passive observer."

The intrigue: It wasn't a new marketing campaign that garnered the most headlines for the Chamber in 1979, but a notorious guest to its January meeting.

  • Woody Hayes, the ousted Buckeyes football coach, made his first public appearance since being fired a month before for striking an opposing player during a game.
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