Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Go Forth!

Just thought I would post this since we didn't get to discuss the commercial at length in class today. What Whitman-esque themes do you see in the commercial? Why might Levis decide this is a good marketing tool over the less conservative (?) work of the beat generation? If Whitman's work is seemingly outdated as we discussed in class why might they use this poem? The commercial got a lot of attention when it came out and most likely resulted in a boom in sales. The mixture of nature, (homo)sexuality, youth and romanticism seem to be the themes pulled from Whitman in the commercial, I guess my overarching question to you is why?


  1. There are definitely a lot of themes we discussed in class present in this commercial. Among them are his appeal to Americans and American imagery. Levi's chose a very American message to represent their product: Go Forth. You get the reference of Western expansion in the poem, but the video suggests exploring a new frontier in a revolutionary sense. It is like a call to arms to push the boundaries of freedom. The strong sexual imagery and sense sexual freedom resonates with Whitman's own poetry, which was considered too racy at the time. Also, the people in the commercial are frolicking and becoming one with nature-- an idea that Whitman and Emerson were very fond of.

    I can see why Levi's chose this to represent their jeans. When I first saw this commercial I wasn't sure what it was selling, but I was really into the imagery and the chanting, repetitive lines of verse. Just watching it I could tell that they were trying to appeal to the all-American persona. By the end I was ready to buy whatever they were selling because it evoked a strong sense of patriotism, pride, and motivation to get out there and explore this great country (funny how jeans can do all that!).

    Just to add to the Go Forth campaign, here is another one of their commercials:

    and here is a picture ad from their campaign which I think is also very centralized on what Whitman was doing with his poetry. He tried to appeal to the younger generations and the common people with his casual picture in Leaves of Grass and I think that this ad is really building off that ideal:

  2. That picture is fascinating, Caitlin. It reminds me of this one.

    I'm not sure if I misrepresented the Beats in class yesterday, or if our discussions of Kun and Whitman and music and Springsteen and jeans and jazz and hipsters are all jumbled up, but I wouldn't call the Beats conservative. Kerouac was the most conservative of them--and, in all likelihood, he was conservative politically. However, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Neal Cassady (who is front and center in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) were pretty far left. Just thought we should keep that in mind.

  3. I agree that this add was attempting to appeal to the all-american, common people with a focus on youth, sexuality, and freedom. The desire to get out and "go forth" represents the sense of adventure and discovery that we Americans pride ourselves on. It is also symbolic of a certain freedom of escaping society and heading toward undeveloped areas, which we have seen countless times in American literature (transcendentalism, ect.) Like the add, Whitman emphasizes the idea of going forth, exploring, and being a true American.

  4. The picture Caitlin posted really impressed me - it makes you think! And I have to agree with its message. I think it's a great ad campaign and fits right in with a lot of the literature we've been reading. It especially relates to common themes of people disagreeing with our government right now - and although this wasn't necessarily a theme in Whitman's and other's work, it makes sense. Whitman did advertise rebellion sometimes, I think, and when I see that Levi's ad, that's the main theme I think of. I'd be curious to see if Levi's considered this campaign successful - it would've brought me in!