During a recent ad break, half listening to the chatter on the screen and the surrounding household noise, I became aware that the sound rhythms coming from the screen were slightly different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first. Then it dawned on me, the last three adverts seem to be full of punchy verses rather than music or voices. They had all contained poems!
Why are there poems advertising everywhere?
I suppose that the fact I was aware of this on a slumbery Sunday afternoon is a testament to the attention grabbing power of poetry, or perhaps it was the different noise patterns that made me stop and take notice. Whatever it was that worked for me it seems that advertisers are also noticing a success and featuring them in campaigns with positive results, but why this sudden leap in popularity?
- Poetry is a genre relatively unsullied by negativity and commercialism, having a poet, or an actor representing a ‘normal everyday person’, endorse a company or product could give it a better sense of legitimacy. The spoken word can seem a more authentic medium and having a relatable voice could help cut through any distrust.
- Poetry is currently having a revival, poetry slams are popping up everywhere and poetry sales are reaching record highs so it isn’t too surprising that the trend is being reflected on our screens. Interestingly two-thirds of buyers were younger than 34 and 41% were aged 13 to 22.
- According to Andre Breedt, m.d. of Nielsen BookScan “My theory is that in times of political uncertainty people turn to poetry to understand the world in which they live”. We are indeed in times of uncertainly and perhaps this medium is resonating better because of this.
- Poetry has to get attention right away, the first few lines of a poem are designed to draw the audience in. This works very well with the medium of advertising which also has a small window to convey a lot. Both pay considerable attention to the words used and what each one says. It also works well with social media when you are limited by the number of characters in a tweet or a single image on Instagram.
- It can simply offer a refreshing change in pace, which can in turn grab attention. Advertisers are always looking for new techniques to draw people in. Each one has a limited shelf-life as audiences become familiar with the technique it looses power. Maybe the patter of poetry has yet to expire and that’s why challenger brands have embraced it?
3 Campaigns that have been using poetry.
What do you think, do they draw you in or leave you cold?
NATIONWIDE – VOICES
Nationwide has a long running campaign series created by VCCP called ‘Voices’ which commission poets such as Birmingham’s youngest poet laureate, Stephen Morrison-Burke. They not only write the pieces but perform in them too. The theme of the advert below is “The Birth of the Building Society”, hammering home values such as helping those who are less fortunate.
COCA COLA – THE WONDER OF US
O2 – Breathe It All In
Another one featuring George the Poet, this campaign by VCCP (I think it’s safe to say VCCP have a thing for the poems, they certainly feel that experimenting with this genre pays off for their clients) was launched on ITV during the X Factor. I’ve seen this advert a few times and I think it is beautiful. However, I must admit every time I see it I immediately forget what it is for!
Should you use poetry in your next campaign?
Poetry is an emotive subject and using the art form of the spoken word to sell commodities will not always sit comfortably with everyone. The Nationwide adverts themselves are subject to parody videos and complaints that they are irritating and insincere. Other campaigns are described as fake, commercial or dumbing down the genre. However, if no publicity is bad publicity then the fact that they are creating opinions and conversations show that they indeed work.
I’m not sure if using poetry in adverts will be a flash in the pan quite yet, particularly if the consumption of poetry is on the rise. The medium can be a pleasure to behold and a refreshing change of pace if it is done well. If it works with the brand then I think experimenting with such a medium could be rewarding. It could offer you a way to speak to your customers in a different tone and structure and may even be what they need to listen.
It also lends it’self well to digital advertising, Instagram is bursting full of individuals harnessing poetry to express themselves, poems can be found on the walls of buses and be the thought of the day at a tube station. It shows now bounds when it comes to emotions, humour and relevancy which makes it a wonderful reason to experiment with on a marketing campaign. Find out which words capture your customers attention, see which voices inspire action and learn what draws them in.
The beautiful ‘Rain’ by Kazim Ali displayed at a London Underground stations for commuters to enjoy and reflect.
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