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Attack On The Ad-Man

This trumpeter of nothingness, employed
To keep our reason dull and null and void.
This man of wind and froth and flux will sell
The wares of any who reward him well.
Praising whatever he is paid to praise,
He hunts for ever-newer, smarter ways
To make the gilt seen gold; the shoddy, silk;
To cheat us legally; to bluff and bilk
By methods which no jury can prevent
Because the law's not broken, only bent.

This mind for hire, this mental prostitute
Can tell the half-lie hardest to refute;
Knows how to hide an inconvenient fact
And when to leave a doubtful claim unbacked;
Manipulates the truth but not too much,
And if his patter needs the Human Touch,
Skillfully artless, artlessly naive,
Wears his convenient heart upon his sleeve.

He uses words that once were strong and fine,
Primal as sun and moon and bread and wine,
True, honourable, honoured, clear and keen,
And leaves them shabby, worn, diminished, mean.
He takes ideas and trains them to engage
In the long little wars big combines wage...
He keeps his logic loose, his feelings flimsy;
Turns eloquence to cant and wit to whimsy;
Trims language till it fits his clients, pattern
And style's a glossy tart or limping slattern.

He studies our defences, finds the cracks
And where the wall is weak or worn, attacks.
lie finds the fear that's deep, the wound that's tender,
And mastered, outmanouevered, we surrender.
We who have tried to choose accept his choice
And tired succumb to his untiring voice.
The dripping tap makes even granite soften
We trust the brand-name we have heard so often
And join the queue of sheep that flock to buy;
We fools who know our folly, you and I.

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Roger Kibble said on 01 February 2021:
“ Ironically it is the poem I found in a desk I was given when I first worked at a London Ad Agency in 1962 having just been promoted to be ‘an assistant account executive ‘ with a quadruple salary increase. This little office had been used by a freelance copywriter called Arthur Seymour John Tessimond.. The dour old Uriah Heap character who was the agency's accountant gloomily and falsely told me that this chap had committed suicide three weeks before! His poem was “Attack on the Ad Man”. I still have the copy I found in that desk. I should have fled the scene there and then but I didn’t! This brilliant poem haunted me throughout my advertising life.
Now when Twitter and Facebook amplify the big lie to a defenceless world, this poem remains powerful, prescient and as compelling as ever. Please pass on John Tessimond's clarion call.


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