Ad Veteran and Composer of ‘The Oscar Meyer Wiener Song’ Dies at 87

Richard D. Trentlage wrote several classic '60s jingles

Headshot of Patrick Coffee

The advertising industry said goodbye this week to a very successful, if largely unknown, creative voice with the passing of Richard D. Trentlage, who died on Sept. 21 at the age of 87 in a suburb of Chicago.

Trentlage was never a household name, but he did compose one of the ad world's most enduring anthems. "The Oscar Meyer Wiener Song" made its debut in 1963 and ran for more than five decades.

According to Trentlage's online obituary, the song's 52-year tenure marks "a record-breaking run" given that "most jingles have a life of 8 to 13 weeks" due to legal concerns related to residuals.

Trentlage worked for some of the biggest agencies in the ad industry before launching his own jingle-writing firm. In a 2012 interview, he told the Wisconsin State Journal that he learned about Oscar Meyer's 1962 songwriting contest from a colleague at J. Walter Thompson, the brand's agency of record at the time. Trentlage then penned the song in less than an hour, taking inspiration from his son's description of a friend as a "dirt bike hot dog." He submitted it to JWT Chicago the following day. 

Oscar Meyer was not the only brand for which Trentlage wrote music. He wrote a "Buckle Up for Safety" tune for a 1964 National Safety Council PSA as well as the '60s ditty "McDonald's Is Your Kind of Place."

Trentlage eventually got his entire family involved in the jingle business, recruiting his children to sing harmonies.

Oscar Meyer retired its wiener song in 2010, and jingles have become more of a rarity in advertising today—with a few notable exceptions like Nationwide's "On Your Side" anthem. But Trentlage continued to receive royalties for the song, which ran in more than 20 English-speaking countries, until his death last week. The brand also credited the composition with helping it sell "enough wieners to reach the moon and back six times."

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.