Poetry & Advertising—Pt. 3:

I’ve written about the importance of beauty and aesthetics when it comes to advertising, whether it’s a flower advertising its wares to honeybees, or Hermes communicating its aesthetic vision to readers of Vanity Fair.

But today we’re going to talk about poetry. What is poetry? In this context, I define it as two things intertwined: 1) A way of looking at the world that is metaphorical and dimensionalized, not just factual; and 2) A way describing what we see in terms that please the ear and speak to the soul.

In a recent international ad for our premium sparkling wine client Benjamin Bridge, we included a ‘verse’ in the copy, as follows:

Made in the Gaspereau Valley
The land where the earth
Meets sea and sky
An invitation to
Transcendent moments

And then our French copy writer added this French adaptation

Conçu dans la vallée 
de la Gaspereau 
Là-même où la terre 
Rencontre ciel et mer 
Une invitation aux instants sublimes


First of all, we weren’t sure whether the client would go for this client of lyrical approach. Second, it was entirely ‘unnecessary’ to include French copy, as this ad was going into the Japanese and U.S. markets. But we thought that it was poetically Canadian to go bilingual, and the French copy, in my opinion, improved upon the original English.

To our great delight, the client loved this copy approach and approved the work. This fall, it will withstand the test of the market by appearing in various publications and sites around the world.

Some famous, and less self-serving, examples of poetry in advertising:

  • Renaming the Kodak slide projector from “wheel” to “carousel”. The latter conjures images of childhood trips to amusement parks and painted horses. See Season 1 of Madmen for the full story, albeit somewhat fictionalized.
  • The simple line (and profound insight): “A diamond is forever”. Responsible for selling millions of diamonds to the middle class via the diamond engagement ring, another lyrical invention from an advertising agency (J. Walter Thompson).
  • Or this insanely moving 2014 campaign for Harley-Davidson. It’s pure poetry, and for that it won a Gold Lion at Cannes (major props to Y&R Czech Republic), and made me a fan of the brand. The image is striking: a terrifying black and white shot from the perspective of someone hiding in a closet as Nazi soldiers raid their home. In case you can’t read the tiny copy in the image, here it is:


During the Second World War, Czech riders
dismantled their bikes and hid them
amongst household objects
so they wouldn’t be confiscated and used
to continue fueling the Nazi war machine.
These ‘parted out’ bikes became symbols of hope
that one day freedom would prevail
and they could be put back together
to reclaim their rightful home
—the open road.

A piece of freedom.
Harley-Davidson Motor Cycles