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Advertising Discovers Square Dancing

You’ve heard the radio ad. “Plant it, plant it, plant it, Portland.” Friends of Trees want Portlanders to plant trees. The group will even help you get the permit to plant a tree in your parking strip, provide the tree and help you plant the tree.

Yes, reasons abound why we should plant trees: Trees beautify the city. Trees increase property values. Trees provide shade in summer, cooling our homes. Trees purify the air. Trees provide exercise in the fall when the leaves fall in soggy piles. We know all those things.

The ad’s message was unsurprising. But what caught my attention was the presentation. That ad sounded like…did I hear it right? That ad sounded like an old-timey singing call. A square dancing call. Am I hearing things?

Yes, I’m hearing things. I’m hearing that ad agencies have decided that a jingle sounding like a square dance singing call will grab listeners’ attention. That a jingle sounding like a square dance singing call is unusual enough to modern ears to stand out from the pop sounds we’re accustomed to. That a jingle sounding like a square dance singing call will sell. 

Should the square dance community be flattered that ad agencies finally have discovered us? That they are validating our activity? After all, we are a small group compared to Portland’s population. Or should we feel angst that we are such an anomaly in modern culture that our “sound” is considered novel enough for an ad?

Maybe the ad will catch on. Maybe every time Portlanders plant a tree–or even see a tree–they will remember the music in that ad and think about square dancing. Maybe so many Portlanders will want to start square dancing that we’ll have to hold our dances in the Expo Center. Now that would be an advertising success. 

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