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Whitman in Levi’s and bards in banks: the cynical reasoning behind advertising’s love of poetry

From Nationwide to McDonald's, more and more advertisements are relying on the power of verse to shift their products. But while it's easy to be cynical, advertising's love affair with poetry tells us something important, too

By Will Harris  

Though poetry famously doesn’t sell (or doesn’t sell much) it has long been used to sell other things. In 2009, to take a random example, Wieden + Kennedy made a television advert for Levi’s, featuring Walt Whitman’s 1865 poem ‘Pioneers! O Pioneers!’ being recited with crusty portentousness alongside footage of beautiful, denim-clad young people running through fields pioneeringly and making out pioneeringly.

Which reminds me of the Apple advert from 2014 showing iPad…

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