Saturday, January 14, 2012

Walt Whitman and Robert Frost: Pitchmen

When I heard Walt Whitman's long-lost recording of "America" used in an ad for Levi's jeans, it didn't ring wrong to me; the recording is in the public domain, and the commercial seemed a soft sell, pitching American values and freedom more than any particular product.  The match between the video images and the audio (with subtitles) is nice, and the visibility it gives to the poet seems to me to be okay.  But would it hurt to name the poet?  Give him some credit.

Things seem different in the new Jeep Wrangler commercial, which shows the Jeep navigating a snowy road as an audio recording of Robert Frost reading from "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."  A small text tag at the end identifies the poet, the poem, and the copyright holder:  Henry Holt.  What's next?


JN said...

A little update. A video of the Jeep commercial that I mentioned here was not available when I wrote the post. But it is now here.

Herm said...

I agree with you about both commercial usages of these poets. The Whitman one is very much in the spirit of Whitman. The Frost Jeep commercial, with slo-mo of Jeep crashing through huge snowbanks?. . .UGLY.

By the way, the Whitman recording of "America" has been through a lot of changes in recent years, since its first modern airing in a 1950s radio program. For the whole fascinating history, see my blogpiece, "The Voice of the Poet," here: