When it's OK to say 'show us your crack'

Singing 'show us your crack', swiftly followed by 'aww, Novus' is as Kiwi as washing down a pie with L&P.

Written back in 2000 by Ben Boyce - yes, that Ben from Jono and Ben - it's one of our most recognisable jingles in living memory and has had its fair share of controversy.

"We'd always had the phrase, but it was a big decision to put it on air. We don't get any complaints now, but we had one or two initially," says Mike James, Novus NZ's co-owner with his brother Tim James.

If any complaints are made, Novus wouldn't know - the Broadcasting Standards Authority dubbed the jingle with 'iconic' status, meaning all complaints are immediately squashed.

Controversy aside, there is actually a science behind why jingles like 'show us your crack' are so popular in advertising.

"According to neurologist Oliver Sacks, our brains are helplessly sensitive to music which is why we're very partial to earworms," explains Thomas Watts, Musician and Commercial Audio Researcher.

"Those are the melodies that get stuck in our phonological loop, which is the part of the brain that deals with audio.

"Jingles have gone hand in hand with advertising for roughly as long as we've had commercial broadcast media."

The first jingle was for American cereal brand Shredded Wheat in 1926, and 'The Best Breakfast in the Land' turned the fortune of the company around.

"The most iconic jingles are earworms that are instantly recognizable - they are short, simple, repetitive, tend to be upbeat, in a major key, and quite often will resemble nursery rhymes. It's the melodic familiarity that makes them catchy," Thomas says.

New Zealand has a long history of memorable jingles, and our popular culture is littered with examples and references.

Thomas recalls a few other standouts such as 'Make it Click' or the Kiwi Burger from McDonalds, Skyline Garages 'Gotta get a garage', Rainbow's End, and Nestle's 'The Milky Bars are on me!'.

"This may or may not be accurate, but I'd wager New Zealand is probably hitting pretty high on the iconic-jingles-per-capita", he says.

Jingles make good jokes too, it seems.

When Michael Barrymore performed here in 2004, his management called Novus to ask for permission to use their phrase in his show.

"He started the concert by asking everybody to stand up, turn around, and 'show us your crack', then talked about the ad. We take it for granted, but it's pretty iconic," says Mr James.

The joke was also well received which shows just how popular Novus is In New Zealand.

Novus didn't think their jingle would last the distance though, and tried to bench it for "Better service with Novus" a couple of years ago.

"We got a real public backlash, customers were saying 'What are you doing, it's who you are!' They wanted the jingle back."

So it's stayed and there've been a few more versions of it since too.

This story was created for Novus NZ to celebrate its 40th birthday this month.