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Havas ME ECD Mark Fiddes on why marketers should pay heed to poetry resurgence


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

April 22, 2020 | 4 min read

Havas creative powerhouse and poet Mark Fiddes believes marketers should pay more attention to the power of verse.


Havas creative and poet Mark Fiddes says marketers should read more poetry.

Fiddes, Havas Middle East executive creative director, speaking during The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival as part of the 'What’s on your bookshelf?' series, pointed out: “Shorter formats are all the more popular. It's one of the reasons why poetry book sales went up 15% last year.

“Poetry was a small market but has increased hugely with the likes of Instagram and in the current crisis."

Fiddes argued that marketers could learn from the resurgence of poetry.

“If the poetry isn't saying something important and touching upon a human truth, then it is bullshit. People need it to get to the point. They don't have time to be slowly courted by elegant prose. They need you to get into what you are trying to say.” There's a parallel here, Fiddes said, with a good ad practice.

He spoke of new poetry networks organising during lockdown, pointing to the International Poetry Circle as one example. “People have found a need for poetry,” he said, noting that poetry networks are “giving fresh voices a chance to find their platform and audiences. Book poetry was once rather exclusive and largely the domain of dead white men.”

As people are struggling to find time for longer reads, he suggested ‘snackable’ content like poems and short stories, though balked at the use of the jargon. We could be due to see audiences return to the sharp and evocative copy once favoured in the mid-century print heyday.

According to Fiddes, reading has always been a means of escape. He said he first fell in love with it during arduous commutes across London. “The only way I was going to protect myself from the realities of the Northern line was to read a book that just was totally immersive.”

What he’s currently reading:

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Flights by Olga Tokarczuk

His favourite books:

Last Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry

Poetry anthology Staying Alive by Bloodaxe books

His recommended reading for the industry:

First, he leaned into the Mad Men era and the story of one Mary Wells Lawrence, a trailblazing woman in advertising and the first female chief executive listed on the New York Stock Exchange. That one's called A Big Life in Advertising.

Next, he suggested the bold title From Those Wonderful Folk who Gave you Pearl Harbor. Jerry Della Femina was a "great copywriter in 60s Madison Avenue" and the title is the shocking headline for an ad he wrote launching Japanese brand Panasonic in the US, barely 20 years after Pearl Harbor.

You can watch the full interview here and view more content from The Drum's Digital Transformation Festival here.

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