“My Bologna Has a First Name”: The Origins of Oscar Mayer’s Iconic Jingle

If you know that bologna is spelled B-O-L-O-G-N-A, Oscar Mayer may be responsible. The jingle is one of the most successful of all time, but the commercial that originally introduced it was supposed to look a lot different.
Oscar Mayer is the only bologna with which America is on a first-name basis.
Oscar Mayer is the only bologna with which America is on a first-name basis. / DebbiSmirnoff/E+/Getty Images

An effective jingle outlasts its ad campaign, and the Oscar Mayer bologna song is a perfect example of this. If you say “my bologna has a first name” to someone who watched television in the 1980s and ‘70s, they may not be able to resist responding with “it’s O-S-C-A-R.” The famous jingle did more than teach the world how to spell B-O-L-O-G-N-A—it made Oscar Mayer the first name American consumers associate with the lunch meat even decades later. But how exactly did the iconic earworm come to be?

The processed meat brand already had a proven track record with musical advertisements when it released a song promoting its bologna in the early 1970s. Roughly a decade prior, Oscar Mayer had launched a contest inviting the public to write a jingle for its wieners. Richard Trentlage, who worked in marketing at the time, heard about the opportunity a day before the deadline and wrote the winning song in about an hour. “Oh, I Wish I Were an Oscar Mayer Wiener” went on to become one of the most successful jingles in history, playing on television until it was finally retired in 2010.

With its 1974 ad campaign, the company aimed to do the same thing for its bologna that Trentlage’s tune did for its hot dogs. Jerry Ringlien, Oscar Mayer’s former vice president of marketing, penned the educational jingle.

It was originally meant to be sung by a group of children playing on a playground. Because of their ages, the commercial would have cut between them so no one kid would have to memorize and sing the song in its entirety. The lyrics, which are as follows, included a lot of spelling, making it especially tricky for the young performers.

My bologna has a first name,
It’s O-S-C-A-R.
My bologna has a second name,
It’s M-A-Y-E-R.
Oh I love to eat it everyday,
And if you ask me why I’ll say,
’Cause Oscar Mayer has a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A.

The plan changed the day of filming. With some extra time left at the end of the shoot, the director asked the kids if any of them could sing the jingle straight through beginning to end. A 4-year-old actor named Andy Lambros volunteered, and the footage of him nailing the song in one take became the commercial viewers fell in love with.

The ad was a major boon for Oscar Mayer, and it boosted its young star’s career as well. Lambros went on to become the face of more than 20 commercials, including advertisements for salt, jelly, and potato chips.

Oscar Mayer is still considered the master of the corporate jingle, but that’s not the only unique way it advertises its products. The company is also famous for its Wienermobile, which roams the U.S. spreading the good word about tubular meat. Jerry Ringlien, the writer of the bologna jingle, was also responsible for bringing the hot-dog-shaped marketing tool back after it had been missing from the streets for decades.

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