The Poetics Of Corruption, A.K.A. Ad Copy

One of America’s great poets—James Dickey—worked in advertising. From 1956 to 1959 he was as a copywriter for McCann-Erickson in New York. He then worked for agencies in Atlanta until 1961, before being rescued by a Guggeheim Fellowship.
Dickey liked to say he was “selling his soul to the devil in the daytime and buying it back at night.”
As he grew more successful in advertising, Mr. Dickey said, he realized he was ”living half a life,” stealing time for poetry. He was also feeling guilty, looking on advertising as a corrupter of the values of both its creators and the public. ”I knew how to manipulate those poor sheep,” he said, ”but the fact I felt that way about them was an indication of my own corruption.”



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.