Art and Copy: An Advertising Poem

Tony Award-winning poet Lemon Andersen on the power and beauty of art in ad agencies

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Editor’s Note: The following is a short poem by Tony Award-winning poet Lemon Andersen, shared at the 4A’s Foundation MAIP’s Golden Gala on Oct. 23, 2023. Here, Andersen pens a poem to young people about the power of art in advertising, especially in ad agencies. The poem has been briefly edited for clarity.

Only The Poets by which I mean
all artists,
Are finally the only people
who know the truth about us

Only the artists can speak
to this complex world through design when it feels so perilous

Only art can conduct advertorials
Into the very depths of ourselves
execute ‘em as a holiday displays
and watch freedom fly off the shelves

Only art can paint pictures,
stretch the canvas
shape vertical trends
evoke horizontal change
interchange our digital palettes
to show true diversity has range

You can be Latin American,
American Latin, Asiatic African Black
you can be an Eastern Asian
who represents pride above all things
and only artists will have your back

Art can promote bold
significant messages above the fold,
entertain billions of impressions
so authentic stories get told

Real voices speak to the buying
strength of our community,
where there resides an artist
whose voice should be the first to speak
this dignifies equal opportunity

Art whispers loudly
into the kaleidoscope
of the human conditions
Art can take the spirit
of a rusted child’s violin
to a local agency
hires them as a musician.

Art creates economic justice
moves corporate steel mountains
drafts disruptive print ads,
Art can chicken scratch
global campaigns
from the imagination of
of a grandmother’s notepad

Art motivates, demonstrates,
threads bridges,
opens solitary doors
lights our freeways with love
and verbs
wraps it high upon a billboard

Art can leggo the Eggo of egos
Pop the Tart off an influencer’s reach
Art can make a timeless slogan
Jingle like a Bushwick church bell
And that’s something you can’t teach

You have to feel it bend genres,
shift paradigms
make it move media-based truth
So it inspires people in power
to imagine art
replacing gun banners
with perennial street flowers

I tell kids
art is the hammer
you are the carpenter
learn to master your tool
bang out as many ideas
nail the old rags
of your sister’s dress to the wall
fashion it, make it look cool

I tell young athletes
art continues to play sports
when you can
no longer play the fields.
there are ways to compete
through strategy,
writing X’s and O’s
For your father’s favorite automobiles

And they ask me, Professor Lemon,
OG lem
where do I Imagine
where do I even start,
where do I even go
to create this kind of Art?

I tell ‘em steal everything.
Without Chuck Wepner,
Sylvester Stallone
would have never created Rocky

Steal everything. Everywhere.
That’s why they call it copy

Copy Wieden + Kennedy’s origins
copy how low-budget radio spots work
learn how Agencies run
from small boutiques to the Omnicoms
High Execs to mail clerks

Study the Team Epiphany’s, SpringHill’s,
the 72andSunny’s,
put the same effort into low-scale spots
you would for Super Bowl Ads
with endless money

Copy the DDBs and the BBDOs
watch Leo Burnett’s numbers
over the last century
see how their accounts vastly increased

Copy MullenLowe’s Mantra
and believe you’re a different beast.

Copy all the copywriting you can find
script your own distinctive voice
grab a friend who draws comics
make them your art director
be the Ogilvy to his Van Gogh

Come with a Lofi 808
Give your manifestos a Nas Flow

Copy every idea, good or Bad,
find thousands of ways to fuel
an execution and spark it.
Cause the greatest idea
is the one that can change the world.

This is how you market.