Of Horlicks and Heroism

In New English Review Dalrymple reviews the life of the poet Norman Cameron, who moonlighted as a copywriter:

Surely nothing could be more antithetical to poesy, or indeed compassion, than that. Nothing could be less poetical than to sell a sweetened, fattening drink to the gullible…

Yet there are elective affinities, perhaps, between publicity and poetry. In the first place, the copy writer must be a master of concision. He must imply, connote, as much as possible in very few words. Perhaps there is no finer training in concision than copy-writing. Hegel, for example, would never have made it in the advertising world, and that is not necessarily a compliment to him.


If the poet wants to furnish us with allusions, so does the advertising man. He wants his slogan to explode in our minds and then remain there, like shrapnel. I remember—and have never forgotten—an advertisement for the beer called Guinness: ‘I’ve never tried it because I don’t like it.’ It is a brilliant line, worthy of a great poet.

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