It’s okay to like these.

I’m unsure how many events are needed to spark a “trend” in the field of commercial production, keeping in mind that commercial producers are a breed of supereager trend-diviners who don’t usually need much to jump on a bandwagon. But if it’s two, then we have a live one here: Using excellent poems to make classic long-form commercials for your aged, wilting brand.

It’s possible you’ve seen these before, either before a movie or, say, on my facebook. First, there’s the flashly, deliberately narrative Ford commercial set to the tune of an actor’s rendition of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”.

It definitely benefits from having chosen one of the maybe 15 English-language poems recognizable to the average consumer. Everybody thinks they know the moral of the poem: You gotta choose your own path, you see. Because, you see…paths are different. So you gotta choose.

It’s easily the best car commercial I’ve ever seen. Well, second best if you include this one:

However, the winner of the poem/commercial mash-up is undoubtedbly the good cowboys and cowgirls at the Levi’s Corporation. And not just because Walt Whitman is so obviously > Robert Frost, or because jeans are a more carbon-friendly mode of transportation than an F-150. They’ve really made a beautiful commercial here.

If, at this point, you’re questioning why I’d want to treat these two little films as works of art and not the propaganda wing of the corporate takeover of civilization, then you’re undermining their creative and educational value. The formula that’s clear from both the Ford and Levis commercials is this: car and jean commercials are awful wastes of the viewers’ time and intelligence, but these car and jean commercials are entertaining and thoughtful. What brings them out of the realm of vapid cheerleading and into the realm of art? Poems. In both cases, whether mumbled through an old wax recording system by the poet himself, or spoken with eerie clarity by a contemporary actor, the poem is what makes the world’s most intolerable means of communication something you wouldn’t mind sitting through again once the first 90-second showing is over. Essentially, the poem is the source, the well, of entertainment. Poems can be sources of entertainment, it would seem.

And I like the idea of a theatre full of people doing that math inside their heads: Car commerical= awful, Car commercial + poem = Not bad. It’s the start of a longer train of thought. Such an integral train of thought that it makes my opinion of the specific politics of Ford (corporate welfare, a hole in Antarctica) or Levis (douchey college students, lakes the colour of marbles) seem oddly, perplexingly, shallow.


On an unrelated note, mon ami Stephen Rowe jotted down a quick homage to the original source for the Frost/Ford commercial, and you might like to read it

Explore posts in the same categories: Poems in the Wider World, Television

6 Comments on “It’s okay to like these.”

  1. I thought you were talking about this Walt Whitman/Levi’s ad featuring “O Pioneers (Go Forth)” …which is maybe even a little better:

    Still, I think the Frost/Ford commercial is the best of the lot, as a piece of filmmaking.

  2. D.C. Says:

    Really liked the article. I also enjoy -maybe enjoy is too strong of a word- tolerate with a smile, we shall say, commercials that make that little bit of effort to make their sales pitch more appeasing to the viewer.

    PS- I REALLY enjoyed the micro machines commercial, brings back memories

  3. voxpopulism Says:

    Chris-They don’t make fast-talking, creepy-looking men like they used to. When I was a kid, I used to think John Moschitta Jr. and “Mean” Gene Okerlund were the same person.

    Paul-I know you do, I know you do. You’re wrong, but I can’t tell you why right now. Do you think it’s also better than the VW/Thomas one in the next post?

  4. Remi Says:

    At least it’s better than the “Ginsberg wore khakis” Gap ad from the 90s.

  5. voxpopulism Says:

    Hi Remi.

    A youtube search for “Ginsberg wore khakis” comes up empty. Awfulness or none, it’d be cool to see this and add it to the collection. Do you know where to find it?

  6. Remi Says:

    Alas, no. And not for lack of trying. I can find the Kerouac wore khakis one easily enough ( but the Ginsberg one eludes me. If I come across it, I’ll let you know.

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