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Does This Dewar's Ad Set To A Bukowski Poem Offend You?

There's something tacky about using a dead artist's work to hawk a product, but at least it's one that Bukowski was a fan of.

There were famous writer/drinkers, and then there was Charles Bukowski. The 20th-century American icon of the twin artforms of thick masculine prose/poetry and alcoholism inspired countless young men and women to pursue both writing and being a drunk, and now Dewar's White Label wants to inspire them to get drunk—specifically on its scotch—by repurposing Bukowski's poem, "So You Want To Be A Writer?" over images of a bunch of people with interesting-looking jobs getting ready to face the day again.

The poem, built around the ever-present Bukowski motif that writing is a terrible burden that only the most damaged souls would dare feel the need to do, isn't an obvious choice for pitching a product, but scotch is probably a better fit for most (laptops, not so much). The implication that if there's anything else you might be happy doing other than writing, you should do that instead doesn't lead directly to "alcohol," but there are probably only a few quick bumps along the way.

It seems almost ridiculous that it would have taken this long to hear a Bukowski poem read aloud in a liquor ad, given the man's reputation, but there are also plenty of devotees of the man's work who are unhappy with hearing their hero's words used to sell a product. That's a legitimate complaint, given that Bukowski died nearly 20 years ago and thus has no say in how his words are used. But it's also probably true that he'd have been willing to license a poem to any company with a check for him during his more destitute years (y'all have read Hollywood, right?), especially one whose product he consumed so enthusiastically, so let's not get too high-and-mighty about the integrity of his work. If you hear "Raw With Love" used in a 1-800-FLOWERS commercial, let's talk. The only real bummer about Dewar's using Bukowski to sell booze is that he can't use the licensing fee to buy himself a drink.

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3 Comments

  • Maz Knight

    This is not the first alcohol ad to use inspiring words to sell the product. Poetry,prose and songs have been used the world over since about 1970, as far as I can remember

  • Weston Kelly

    If you notice the poem is somewhat abridged.  The idea that it not just about writing.  It is the pursuit of whatever burns inside of you.  If you watch the rest of the content that is part of this global campaign, it chronicles the lives of others that are "living true".  I think Dewars feels it has the right to play in this territory because of the heritage of the Dewars family, the history of the distillery and the people that work there.  The pursuit of True Scotch.  This campaign could be very "Insert brand here" unless they can prove or create awareness around the True Scotch aspect. Americans are very literal when it comes to their campaigns.  None of the content connects consumption to this quest of living a true life.  You certainly don't see Alex Honnold (Free Climber) drinking scotch before he climbs.  It will be interesting to see if/how this campaign comes to life in the US.