This quote from Paul Celan, possibly the greatest European poet of the 20th century, made me think about the difference between art and advertising. Celan said:

For a poem is not timeless. Certainly it lays claim to infinity, it seeks to reach through time [durch sie hindurch] through it not above and beyond it.

For most marketing to work, it has to attach itself to time: it has to be targeted at a particular audience, and released at the perfect moment (or at least that’s the theory). A print advert, for example, is not built to reach through time to someone in the distant future. It’s job is to stimulate people in the here and now.

However you do see people enjoying old adverts, say the one below for Guinness. This would never be released now, other than in an ironic way. It no longer sells, but has an art-like quality that manages to reach through time to us still.


By Peter Kenny

I lead a double life. Identity #1. A writer of poems, comedy plays, dark fiction and the odd libretto. Identity #2: A marketing outlier, working with London creative agencies and my own clients as a copywriter and creative consultant.

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