“Kerouac wore khakis,” states a 1993 Gap advertising campaign. The creators airbrushed photos taken of the writer by Jerry Yulsman, who followed Kerouac around Greenwich Village in 1958 for Pageant Magazine.
The photo was one of many of Kerouac’s belongings sold off in auctions by feuding relatives during the 1990s. An original photo from the collection is pictured below.
Though I’m not quite certain what Kerouac would have to say about his appearance in the ad, he is surprisingly not the only writer to have done so. Allen Ginsberg also appeared in a Gap ad. And William Burroughs appeared in this Nike commercial (also in the 90s):
Burroughs repeats “The purpose of technology is not to confuse the mind but to serve the body,” words written by a copywriter who worked on the campaign.
Literary figures can bring a fresh outlook to brands like Nike and Gap, because although their names might have recognition, their faces generally don’t. Certainly, they are a nice change from the athletes and celebrities usually featured in ads.