Epigramatic for the People

“Advertisers are the interpreters of our dreams — Joseph interpreting for Pharaoh. Like the movies, they infect the routine futility of our days with purposeful adventure. Their weapons are our weaknesses: fear, ambition, illness, pride, selfishness, desire, ignorance. And these weapons must be kept as bright as a sword.” -E.B. White, “Truth in Advertising,” The New Yorker
So begins The Happy Soul Industry, by Steffan Postaer. I’ll circle back around when I get time to read the advance copy. But what of E.B. White? The above sentiment takes no prisoners.
According to this biographical sketch, White graduated from Cornell University, after which he took several reporter’s jobs–for United Press, American Legion News Service, and the Seattle Times. In 1924, he returned to New York and went to work as a production assistant and advertising copywriter. Two years later, he discovered that the allure of the slick new New Yorker proved to be greater than the security of advertising, and White went to work there.
I find it interesting that so many real writers work their way through advertising.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. David,
    The outrageous part is that so many people incapable of writing work their way through advertising—as copywriters!

  2. I read an interview with Augusten Burroughs after ‘Dry’ was published. Being a former ad writer, he said copywriting taught him discipline, and he puts that discipline to work in his post-advertising career. Cool insight.

  3. I got in the game so I could learn to sell, thinking that someday I might have something bigger than an ad campaign to move.