Digital Culture

Instapoetry and Advertising Change

There are many ways the World Wildlife Fund flagship Choices campaign video goes against the grain of advertising. For one thing, it isn’t trying to sell anything (in fact, it wants us to consume less). Everything about Choices invokes the theme of change. And what better way for WWF to promote minimalist living than by narrating its advert with minimalist poetry – a form so keen to break away from tradition? For those familiar with the concise, confessional verse of artists like Atticusor Rupi Kaur, the similarities between the dialogue of Choices and minimalist Instapoetry are clear.

Writing about the nature of minimalist poetry, Atticus posted a brief verse to his 1.1 million followers:

His interpretation aligns with Carl Wilson’s claim that minimalist poetry is characterised by‘aphoristic, confessional and inspirational verse, brief enough to fit into a tweet, or be overlaid on a photo or illustration’. Work by the likes of Atticus and Rupi Kaur doesn’t usually seek to revolutionise our ways of thinking. Instead, as Katy Waldmanputs it, ‘their work carves out a pristine space for reflection’- it challenges readers to look at the familiar from a different angle.

The same is true of Choices. To quote Atticus, the 91second 85word advert doesn’t tell us anything we don’t know. Instead, it paints a ‘picture we [already] have in our minds using colours we didn’t know were there’. We know we’re ‘destroying the planet’. We know we need to change our ways. Choices simply implores us to change the way we view that knowledge and uses a transparent, aphoristic style to do so. 

The ‘reportage visuals and stunning macro photography’produce a similar sense of universalityas the stark line drawings accompanying Kaur’s poems. Kaur uses basic illustrations to resonate with as wide an audience as possible; the footage in Choices’montage- which ranges from images of gasping fish to melting ice cream- is used to similar effect.

The omission of unnecessary adjectives creates a sense of imperativeness that gives weight to the harrowing subject matter. Enough is left unsaid that the poignant video is left open to interpretation without risking the wider meaning getting lost in translation. 

Just as haiku (the form from which minimalist poetry descends)  the essence of a specific moment in time’Choicesuses its scant visual and audio descriptions to demonstrate the quintessence and immediacy of our current environmental plight. Free from distressing imagery, we are instead left to contemplate the wider devastation the montage of floating plastic and falling trees represents- and to pick out the frames most relevant to our own wasteful habits. As we’re met with the gaze of a polar bear, the narrator’s declaration ‘You see the problem is, we think we have time’ needs no further explanation. 

Consciously or otherwise, Choicesengages with the departure from tradition made by Instapoets to intone the changes we need to make in our own lives. The message made in that distinctively minimalist style is clear: We need to act. Now.