McGarryBowen/Miracle Whip anthem hits the right note

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Susan Boyle sings for Miracle Whip

These haven’t been the best months in the history of McGarryBowen.  Though most of the bad news of late has been coming out of the ad agency’s New York office, the Chicago office hasn’t entirely shaken off the setback of losing its entire Anheuser-Busch account just months after the business came into the fold.

Still, there have been plusses in Chicago, such as winning Cars.com.  And a big one that didn’t make a lot of headlines when it debuted during the Grammy Awards weekend. But from our vantage point, it was a sure sign all is not lost at McGarryBowen/Chicago.

We’re talking about the lovely anthem the shop created for one of its core Kraft Foods accounts, Miracle Whip.  Without nearly the fanfare it deserved in these creatively-challenged times in the advertising industry, McGarry quietly whipped together a 2-minute, 18-second anthem for the iconic sandwich spread.

With a bit of humor and some real emotion, the melodic song titled “Keep an Open Mouth” encourages viewers to keep an open mind about Miracle Whip, the sandwich spread that has been much maligned in these health-conscious times of ours.

But to its credit, the song manages to become more than just a clever ode against prejudgment — it really speaks to the biases and prejudices that so often tarnish all of our personal interactions.

The Miracle Whip anthem harkens back to similar efforts that shook the world back in their day.  We refer to the immortal Coca-Cola anthem “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” and the even bigger “We Are the World” in 1985, produced to help fund humanitarian aid to Africa.

Anthem serves the product well

Miracle Whip’s new “Keep an Open Mouth” may not quite match those epic efforts. But in its gentle, touching way, it will serve quite well as a modern example of how an anthem with a reason for being — even one pushing a sandwich spread — can bring together tens of thousands of  people and encourage them to contemplate and act on a single theme.

Prejudgment, as it turns out, had been much on the minds of two McGarryBowen creatives — Dave Reger and Michael Straznickas — last year as they sought new ways to get the public to focus on Miracle Whip.

Lance Bass and Wynonna JuddSome ads they did for Miracle Whip equated prejudgments about admired artists such as country singer Wynonna Judd, with similar feelings about the sandwich spread. The McGarry creatives wanted to make the point that just because a musical artist sings country (which a lot of people may consider an inferior music genre) doesn’t mean Wynonna isn’t a talent worthy of attention and respect.

Reger and Straznickas believed it wasn’t such a stretch to see Miracle Whip in a similar light.  Yes, many people have knocked the product — but done so without ever sampling it or even bothering to understand why it has remained on store shelves for decades.  Let’s face it, Miracle Whip must be doing something right.

So, from this thinking the seeds of the “Keep an Open Mouth” anthem were sown late last year.  Time was of the essence, because the McGarryBowen duo wanted to have their anthem ready to debut around the Grammy Awards on Feb. 10.

They reached out to Beacon Street Studios, a music house in Venice, Calif., to write the actual anthem.  This was an effort that would require constant revisions of the song over several weeks to come up with lyrics that would most effectively convey the right message and to compose a piece of music that would immediately suggest the right anthemic sound and arc.

Many rejudged artists signed on  

Getting the right talent in place was no snap either.

Especially considering much of that work had to be done over the Christmas holidays.  The McGarry folk reached out to a wide range of high-profile stars who, in their own way, had suffered from prejudgment.

Who knew, after all, that when Susan Boyle walked out on to the stage in her hausfrau get-up at “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2009, that people would laugh at first — only to later jump on her bandwagon and help catapult her to international stardom.

In their heyday, the Village People, another part of the “Keep an Open Mouth” pool of talent, had to fight to rise about the negative connotations attached to disco. And ditto Lance Bass, a boy band graduate who proved he was really, at heart, more than that.

All of these folk said yes to “Keep an Open Mouth,” and over the course of a couple of days in late January, they convened at Ocean Way recording studio in Hollywood, to lay down the “Keep an Open Mouth” tracks.

As Reger and Straznickas would later tell us, all of the singers that were part of the project were never actually in the recording studio together, though the final video suggests they might have been.  Rather, through the magic that can only happen in the editing booth, the impression they were all doing their singing together was created.

No matter.

It’s the finished product that matters.  And here is a finished product that brings a smile to the face. And some warm feelings inside.  Sure, it’s meant to make people feel good — or better anyway — about Miracle Whip.  But thanks to the artistry of all involved, this project does much, much more in a memorable and heartfelt – way.

Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com.

McGarryBowen/Chicago credits: CCO, Ned Crowley; art director,

Michael Straznickas; copywriter, Dave Reger; executive producer,

Steve Ross.

Production credits: Company, Anonymous Content. Director, Brian Billow; senior EP, Eric Stern; EP, SueEllen Clair; producer: Paul Ure; DP, Darran Tiernan.

Editorial: Optimus, Julie Kravitz. Music: Beacon Street Studios. Producer, Marisa Wasser.

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