Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Simon Turner - Waitrose's plumbing of the depths

Just a quick note, as much for my benefit as for anybody else's (ie, I wanted to make sure I wasn't hallucinating this after ingesting a bad sandwich): Waitrose have a new ad they're running for their autumn foods campaign, which features the usual montage of images of conkers and kids kicking through piles of autumn leaves and miraculously not whanging foot-first into a dog turd. None of this is especially offensive, and is no more nor less anodyne than most televisual advertising. What is worrisome is the soundtrack: Roger McGough reading Keats' 'Ode to Autumn' with 'Golden Brown' by the Stranglers tinkling away behind him. This is wrong for so many reasons, not least of which is the narrow and smug notion of 'poetry' that ad execs clearly have. Immediately after this I saw the new ad for Warburton's, an eerie and imaginative concoction, which contains far more poetry than a whole barnful of McGough-endorsed conker-stuff doughnuts, or whatever it is that Waitrose are peddling. I feel like going to bed for a month and hoping that all this goes away...

8 comments:

Emily said...

Then you'll be awake just in time for Tesco's televised Christmas buying encouragements: Stopping by Woods read by Andrew(needs the work/appreciation)Motion over jingle bells.

Gloria said...

Well said that girl.

And well said Simon. It makes me want to slit my throat. BUT it's not like people with any real appreciation of poetry are ever going to produce Waitrose ads, are they? It's like someone who actually cares about people going into mainstream politics

Gloria

Anonymous said...

Erm , Stopping By Woods has already been done with jingle bells, by Scottish singer Jackie Leven, whose albums have included workings of poems by MacNeice, Cummings, Rilke, James Wright and others.

I'm involved with a campaign by Old Speckled Hen at the moment featuring sonnets about pub life, which will come out next Spring. Ads, a booklet, and a full anthology. Corporate, yes, but we will strive to make it as tasteful as possible.

Roddy

emily said...

okay, I have now actually seen teh offending advert. Hideous, worse even than I expected.

Maybe Waitrose follow Nicholar Roe et al's reading of the poem and actually want to alert us to the Peterloo massacre and its modernday parallels. Or maybe they'll just use that first stanza and a shot of custard being poured.

I read another article complaining about being on hold (I think it was a telephone company) and getting poetry read by Roger McGough instead of muzac. I am tempted to think this is the natural side-effect of promoting poetry, that it gets dragged into advertising and other places we wouldn't want to see our poet's beloved progeny play. And if music becomes muzac in such situations, what's the word for poetry? poezac? And so Prose would be...

The Editors said...

Roddy, the pub-sonnet project sounds interesting: the work will at least have a connection to the product it's linked with. Are Gists and Piths allowed a review copy...?

Emily, I'd forgotten the story about the poems being read on hold, but it does chime in rather well: in both cases, there's a contempt for poetry on display, a total negation of the possibility that poems might open up the language and, dare I say it, expand the horizons of consciousness. Or is eveything a product now, and I'm just a fusty old throwback who thought art was meant to mean something?

Simon, G&P

The Editors said...

Reminds me of that awful Prudential ad from several years back, with the poem by Nick Toczek. I can't remember a single line, though I can remember images of a guy walking along a very un-British sunny street with floating things (a football possibly) and much nonsense in not quite normal speed.

I don't know if this tripe says more about visual/video art as being more poetry than poetry, or if it just confirms the fact that poetry is the opposite of selling.

George, G&P

Jane Holland said...

I like Ode to Autumn. At least it means millions of people will potentially be hearing a snippet of some good poetry for an average of thirty seconds a week this autumn.

Better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick, as my old grandad used to say.

I can't stand sonnets.

RachaelB said...

I agree with Jane - maybe some viewers might even find out what the poem is and then read the proper version (which imho is the best poem ever written). I really don't have a problem with the advert - in fact I loved it. If that makes me a philistine pleb, I don't care.