Above is a catchy little production that’s been making the viral rounds for a couple of weeks. Titled “If I Made a Commercial for Trader Joe’s,” it is described on YouTube by carlsfinefilms as an “Unauthorized commercial for Trader Joe’s shot on my Palm Treo before I accidentally ran over it with my car.”

It’s cute. It’s fun. The song sticks in your head.

You smile. You grin. You’re easily led.

I dunno — does that manager look like he’s seriously bouncing this tuneful documentarian off the premises? Are we supposed to believe that fairly complex sequence with the gradually vanishing aged gouda cheese was constructed under the radar?

Carl’s Fine Films

And what is “Carl’s Fine Films,” anyway?

Well, let’s just say that this is not their first year marketing class project. According to their “About Us” page, they “have produced more than 35 commercials for Hershey’s Kisses, in additon to work for clients like Post Cereals, Nabisco, Ford, Maxwell House, Pillsbury, MTV Networks, Interactive Brokers and the US Census.”

Carl’s Fine Films is also listed at at Internet Movie Database as a special effects company for their work on Across the Universe and Idlewild.

Update: A director’s profile at FFAKE explains that Carl is Carl Willat — “a modern pioneer of tabletop stop-motion animation and CG product photography. He imbues even the most inanimate objects with a sense of character and performance. And Carl has created techniques that have been copied industry-wide and has put them to good use on hundreds of commercial projects.”

Still, even if it is part of a paid, viral-marketing campaign, it’s pretty darned clever and observant. We have been known to travel to Trader Joe’s locations in both suburban Chicago (usually Northbrook) and Wisconsin, and we have witnessed virtually all of the little details included in this spot. Trader Joe’s stores are a cool, quirky little universe unto themselves.

Wine at Trader Joe’s

The main thing we buy, though, is the incredibly reasonable wine. Over the summer, our friend Sharon spent a few nights at our house, and one day we traveled up I-94 to spend the day with a Milwaukee-area friend of hers. Disappointed by the wine selection in Racine, she said, “Too bad you guys don’t have a Trader Joe’s.”

That’s when we remembered the Glendale Trader Joe’s location
at the Bayshore mall. There, we wandered back and forth in front of extremely resonably-priced wines from Spain and Italy and France, and emerged about a half-hour later with perhaps a dozen bottles between all of us.

That was a fun afternoon and evening.

By the way, “The TJ’s Song” alludes to founder Joe Coulombe as “that guy Trader Joe, who’s not there anymore.” According to Wikipedia, he launched his first Trader Joe’s in Pasadena in either 1966 or 1967, depending on which page you consult, eventually retiring from the company in 1988.

So where is he now? On the boards of Cost Plus World Market and True Religion jeans.

“Waters of March”

The song’s melody is borrowed from “Águas de Março” (“Waters of March“) by Antonio Carlos Jobim, which was covered in 1975 by a dull Art Garfunkle on his album Breakaway:

A more caffeinated take on “Waters of March” has also been used as the jingle for Coca-Cola’s mid-1980s “Coke is it!” campaign. Here’s one spot, circa 1985:

And here’s another version, growing brassier, from 1986:

“Águas de Março” has been voted the all-time best Brazilian song, and the Wikipedia entry on it contains a lot of interesting information about Jobim’s differing lyrics in both Portuguese and English, noting that in the southern hemisphere, March comes at summer’s end. He uses Brazil’s March rains as a central metaphor for life’s passages, but makes specifically Brazilian references in the Portuguese lyrics, while keeping the English words more universal, optimistic, and spring-like.

Finally, check out the smooth bossa nova joyousness of Tom Jobim himself singing his song as a duet with Elis Regina:

If you’re like me, you’ll want to immediately buy the MP3 (or the whole Elis & Tom album) at Amazon.com.


Update, 8/26/2010:

There was a brief profile of the mysterious Trader Joe’s company today on NPR’s Morning Edition which also mentioned “The Trader Joe’s Song” — “Trader Joe’s keeps quiet on secrets of success“.

The piece was in reference to the August 23 Fortune cover story by Beth Kowitt, “Inside the secret world of Trader Joe’s“.

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