Walt Whitman used to “sing the body electric.” Now, the late poet is singing the praises of denim-clad bodies in a new advertising campaign for Levi’s launched by Wieden + Kennedy. One of the jeans company’s TV spots features an excerpt from Whitman’s “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” Another includes an audio clip that, according to Levi’s website, “is widely believed to be an original wax recording of Walt Whitman reading his 1888 poem ‘America.'”
It’s not the first time that dead authors have been used to shill products, though I can’t help finding the whole concept a little creepy and unsettling. (Plus, I would have thought that Whitman might have been put to better use shilling lawn care products — insert your own Leaves of Grass-inspired tagline here.) Of course, Whitman’s work is now in the public domain and he has no say in the matter. But I suspect that as a gay, urban-dwelling sensualist, he might have been pleased to associate himself with a stylishly shot film featuring lithe models in tight clothing. Heck, he probably would have been sounding his barbaric yawp just behind the camera.
Are there any other deceased authors who’d be perfect pitchmen (and pitchwomen) to help sell modern products? Or is the whole idea of advertisers using a dead celebrity writer somehow unseemly?