More companies, including McDonald’s, are being moved to verse to advertise their products. Is this a welcome development?
Rhythm and verse are memorable. I still remember lines that my parents told me about from before I was born. “The Esso sign means happy motoring” (I can hear the tune) and “The Murray mint, the too-good to hurry mint.” It’s a welcome development – particularly if copywriters create new, fresh verses. But using existing lines is OK too. I’ve used snippets of George Mackay Brown’s verse in promoting Highland Park, the Orcadian Malt Whisky.
The problem is not that verse should be so alien to commerce, but that poetry has elevated itself into a cultural ghetto. Everyone’s conversation is peppered with poetic qualities; rhyme & rhythm, pace & tempo, metaphor & simile, and we happily play games with oral language. Anything that encourages business to be less anal about language and oxygenates language in the public domain helps us writing evangelistas to break down barriers.
As someone who’s penned a poem this year for a campaign, personally the return to verse has been very welcome. It ties into a more general renaissance for copy-led ideas and executions that, very tentatively, has started to happen this year. Slowly but surely clients and the wider world are starting to wake up to the fact that well-written words can be just as effective in gaining attention and swaying minds as jaw-dropping visuals and engrossing digital interactions. And poetry should, and hopefully will, be a crucial part of that.
“Why on earth not? I love hearing poetry in adverts – I find myself actually listening to the words to see where they’ll take me, instead of just screening them out. So it’s more enjoyable than the usual stuff, and if it opens folk up to words they otherwise wouldn’t have heard, that’s got to be good for writing in general. And I doubt it’s a new development – surely market traders have been using rhythm and rhyme to sell their wares for donkey’s years.”
Sure, all I ask is it’s any good. I’m not certain McDonalds’ reworking of Rolf Harris’ “Court of King Caractacus” counts, but what do I know? In fact this must be a trend because even I’ve been asked to do something similar in recent weeks. It didn’t get used.
Of course poetry belongs to everyone, and you could argue that commercials are a legitimate way of getting metre out to the masses. On the other hand, it’s like your favourite novel getting the Hollywood treatment – it somehow cheapens the original and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.