16 Jul

Poetry in ads – enough already

Advertising goes in cycles.
Things pop up again and again, for different ads/brands, forming a pattern… until that particular thing becomes a cliche – then it dies a death.

In the mid-1980s (probably stretching to just before 1990), lions and scenes in lifts were common scenarios in TV ads.

In the mid-2000s, up until 2010-ish, dancing animals / animals doing human things became common fodder for ads – Cadbury’s drumming gorilla, the Fox’s biscuits panda (Vinnie), dancing ponies (Three Mobile) etc.

Then it became common to have character-based ads: The Meerkats/Compare The Market, Gio Compario/Go Compare, Cillit Bang (Barry Scott), Admiral car insurance, Enterprise car hire.

Earworms / jingles became a thing, for a bit: Sheila’s Wheels, We Buy Any Car,
Start4Life (‘100 calorie snacks’) – if in doubt, just ram your product / service down the consumer’s throat by repeating it over and over again, to an annoying soundtrack.

But the very latest thing – this season’s dancing animal / obnoxious character / person stuck in a lift – is poetry / ‘spoken word’.

It started with Nationwide Building Society.
Then I saw the twee – ‘we’re trying hard to be authentic’ – McCain chips TV ad.
Then I spotted that it had spread to this Giffgaff ad.

Two things:

1. Stop it.
Just stop it already.
I’m sure copywriters are loving this (‘Yay! Suddenly copywriting is needed again… we have a place in this agency / ad-land… it’s no longer an outdated skill!’ etc). I can assure you, I’d love to write poetry instead of / for ads, but there’s never been any call for it… until now.
… but it’s self-indulgent pap.
Advertising seems to have gone past selling – or remembering that all it does is ‘just sell’ – and has tried to become art … except that whacking a logo at the end of a poem brings you right back to the fact that it’s advertising, not art – two very different things.
Do the Nationwide ads make me want to take out a mortgage with them, or do I just think ‘interesting poem’, then forget what it was for?
Same with Giffgaff: do I think that the girl, her delivery of the poem, or the poem itself is interesting… or do I actually want to take out a new mobile contract with Giffgaff?

2. Advertising/marketing just seems to go in cycles, with brands/agencies copying each other (be it ads with animals or ads with poetry) on the basis of; ‘well it worked for that brand/client, so let’s try it for ours’.
I thought this was supposed to be an industry full of the most creative minds out there – an industry which prides itself on being original.

Let’s start seeing advertising go back to being a bit more honest about what it is. It’s there to sell stuff, raise awareness, make us donate etc. If it amuses us along the way – happy days.
But let’s stop pretending it’s art.
Let’s put poetry to one side, and let ads get on with being ads.

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