Your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
Be on the watch.
There are ways out.
There is a light somewhere.
It may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
Be on the watch.
The gods will offer you chances.
You can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
And the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
Your life is your life.
Know it while you have it.
You are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
— “The Laughing Heart”, Charles Bukowski
So, I feel like I’ve probably seen the Levi’s “Go Forth” ads by Wieden + Kennedy (so, of course, they rock) before and noticed them, but not the way I noticed them now that I’m in the midst of this project. I hate to say anything this positive about most advertising, but these ads are beautiful. That’s the point, I know. Even if it’s all branding and all about marketing and commercialism, these ads use poetry to brand. Real poetry. Not poetic language. Real, renowned, published, verifiable, known poetry. And they are positive messages. Granted, the idea that the viewer should not just go forth into a certain kind of life, but a certain kind of life in which they wear Levi’s bothers me slightly. But, not enough to negate the beauty of these ads and their ability to expose new people to poetry. Don’t believe me?
One YouTube viewer wrote:
Although I do not fully agree with what Levis is trying to sell me (that being their jeans) , I am glad that I was able to hear this beautiful poem. If this campaign becomes a flop I will at very least take away this poem even if there crass ad introduced it to me .
Amazing! I always know Bukowski was the way to reach to poetry-wary (even if they chose one of CB’s rare, truly hopeful poems). Although I am unwilling to at this point in time, it seems like there’s a lively debate about this in the comments section of this video and considering it’s a YouTube comments section, it seems like there are people with reasonably intelligent things to say. Also good to point out, within two clicks on YouTube, the site brought me to another, non-Levi’s related Charles Bukowski video.
Another good “Go Forth” ad to look at is this one, which is (apparently, if we trust the poster) believed to be an original wax recording of Walt Whitman reading four lines of his 1888 poem “America”:
Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,Chair’d in the adamant of Time.
— “America”, Walt Whitman
And, for good measure, a more recent one that truly exemplifies the spoken-wordness of these ads, but in which it’s really obvious the ad is for jeans, and not poetry:
Lastly, I think it’s important to think about why Wieden + Kennedy & Levi’s chose to use poetry (both verbal and visual) to re-brand themselves. The original idea they’re going for is the “New Americans” who can overcome adversity with Walt Whitman-esque optimism and strength. But why poetry? Could the same emotion reaction be evoked as easily with other mediums? I’d write it out myself, but Roger Housden said it better.
UPDATE, 5 minutes later:
Another set of these ads centers around Braddock, PA. And since I’m ten miles away… I’m tempted to drive out there sometime.