To mark the 123rd anniversary of the passing of the wit and wordsmith on this November 30, Steve Davis has delivered a eulogy, honouring the legacy of word play and reflection Oscar has left us with.
Indeed, Talked About Marketing derives its name from one of Oscar's most famous quips: There's only one thing worse than being talked about and that's not being talked about.
It was on this day in 1900, that Oscar died in Paris, with his last words demonstrating his gift of observation and comedy right to the end: "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go."
Steve Davis' Eulogy For Oscar Wilde
Friends of Talked About Marketing, today, November 30th, marks the anniversary of the death of Oscar Wilde, the man whose writing and flair inspired our enterprise. In fact, our name is derived from that most famous quip: there is only one thing worse than being talked about and that’s NOT being talked about.
Today, let us pause, not in mourning but in celebration, to honour a man who embraced life with a fervour as flamboyant as his prose, the incomparable Oscar Wilde. In the spirit of Wilde, let us not forget that “Most people die of a sort of creeping common sense,” a fate our dear Oscar bravely evaded with every witty repartee and audacious escapade.
Oscar, in his infinite wisdom, declared, “One can survive everything, nowadays, except death, and live down everything except a good reputation.” As marketers, we dwell in the realm of reputation, where being talked about is the currency of our trade. In a Wildean twist, our endeavours echo his sentiment that obscurity is a fate worse than scandal.
His life, much like the most captivating marketing campaigns, was a testament to the fact that “some things are more precious because they don’t last long.” In marketing, as in life, it's the fleeting campaigns, the ephemeral slogans, that often linger longest in memory. Oscar knew the value of impermanence, of the allure of the momentary.
Consider the whimsical episode before the premiere of "Lady Windermere's Fan."
In a stroke of genius, Wilde orchestrated a sartorial spectacle. He instructed W Graham Robertson to procure green carnations, declaring, “I want a good many men to wear them tomorrow—it will annoy the public.” On stage, the dandy Cecil Graham donned this mysterious green carnation, sparking a frenzy of speculation. The audience, entranced by these specks of mystic green, murmured, “This must be some secret symbol, what on earth can it mean?”
This masterstroke of Wilde’s captured the essence of intrigue in marketing. He understood the power of the unspoken, the allure of mystery. In our world of marketing, we often strive for clarity and directness, yet Wilde reminds us of the potency of leaving gaps for the imagination to fill. His green carnations were more than a fashion statement; they were a lesson in public curiosity and social proof. If others are talking about it, we want in too. As Wilde cheekily responded when asked about the meaning of the green carnation, “'Nothing whatever, but that is just what nobody will guess.'”
We remember Wilde not just for his words, but for the audacious spirit behind them. He taught us to value mistakes - those missteps are often the most talked about, the most memorable, and in our line of work, sometimes the most effective. Oscar’s life was a series of bold choices and memorable mistakes, a perfect case study for any daring marketer.
His wit was not merely for amusement; it was a mirror to society, a clever critique wrapped in humor. As marketers, we too strive to reflect society, to connect, engage, and sometimes, challenge. Wilde’s use of language, his play with words, is a masterclass in captivating an audience, something we all aspire to in our craft.
In closing, let us remember Oscar Wilde not with sorrow, but with the mirth and irreverence he cherished. Let his legacy be a reminder that in both life and marketing, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it, that leaves an indelible mark.
Thank you, Oscar, for your life, and your words, and for reminding us that Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.
Eulogy For Oscar Wilde Video
This eulogy was recorded on video. Here it is if you prefer to watch and listen, rather than read.