Rhyming briefs

Good marketing communication works much like poetry, making us see things differently. David Bernstein explores the link in verse

Who said this about the creative’s task? Who called it ‘the power of so dealing with things as to awaken in us a wonderfully full, new and intimate sense of them and of our relations with them’? It was Matthew Arnold and he was writing on poetry, but his words apply equally to the creative’s role in marketing communication. As 2009 marks the centenary of the Poetry Society, I have chosen to pursue the comparison in appropriate fashion.

The poet, said a poet, is the true Experiencer of change one whole life through, Whose perceptions may in turn consign Change to others in a single line And they in turn transform such thoughts to deeds. The poet, at the border, intercedes Twixt reason and imagination. Young Shelley mapped that customs station/ Reason registers the differences in things; Imagination commonality brings. Hence metaphor and its integral part In image transfer and the poet’s art. Eliot’s city fog that ‘rubs its back Upon the window panes’ is no mere knack, No faded simile much told But metaphor with sleeves up-rolled. And this undoubted truth, with proof enough: Poetry is practical, demanding, tough. This discipline that keeps a mind alive Sets fancy free, if it’s prepared to strive. Regard constraint as handicap – you close. Regard constraint as catalyst – who knows? Who knows what strange felicities may please Within the poem’s rigid boundaries? The artist is indebted to the frame: The sonneteer the sonnet form. The same. You will have noted long before this time This versifier has succumbed to rhyme. ‘Succumbed’? Not so. Oh no! Rhyme’s Another, steeper discipline to climb. Blank verse was thought by Robert Frost a menace, Like playing minus net at tennis. Rhyme, said Dryden, ‘bends and circumscribes’, Restrains the word-drunk who too much imbibes. Voltaire took care to keep excesses down: ‘The adjective’s the enemy of noun.’ And thanks to laws that poets do impose, ‘Poetry says more – in fewer words – than prose.’  Paraphrase a poem and expect Superfluity of language to collect. Concentration dwells at verse’s very heart For essence is essential to the art. In marketing communication too This principle (surprisingly?) is true For what’s a brief but brief? As is the time In which to make a fleeting message chime.  And concentration, one must understand, Is focus that’s exclusive to the brand. What else can poetry creatives teach? Creative arts belong to each. Though ends may differ, means will coincide And different travellers share a common ride. Aesthetic satisfaction may suffice. The poem moves. The ad moves merchandise. Was it a poet, Pope, defined it best? ‘What oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed.’ But, in addition, thoughts unthought arise, Epiphanies awaken leaden eyes. The poet’s task – the ad creative’s too – Is to refresh, revise, re-view, See things anew and then articulate That insight and, with speed, communicate, Make strange familiar and familiar strange. Arouse our senses, experiencer of change.

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