'Attack On The Ad-Man' by A.S.J. Tessimond

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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.

Submitted by Stephen Fryer

Editor 1 Interpretation

Analysis of "Attack on the Ad-Man" by A.S.J. Tessimond

Are you tired of being bombarded with advertisements every time you turn on the radio or television? Do you ever wonder about the impact that these ads have on society? If so, then A.S.J. Tessimond's poem "Attack on the Ad-Man" is sure to resonate with you.

First published in the 1930s, this poem is a scathing critique of the advertising industry and the way in which it manipulates consumers. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, language, and structure of this classic poem.


At its core, "Attack on the Ad-Man" is a poem about the power struggle between advertisers and consumers. Tessimond portrays advertisers as manipulative villains who use clever tactics to convince consumers to buy products they don't need. The poem suggests that this manipulation is harmful to individuals and society as a whole.

One of the most prominent themes in the poem is the idea that advertising creates false needs. Tessimond writes, "He sells the need to sell the need for things / To satisfy the need he has invented." In other words, advertisers create a desire for products that consumers wouldn't otherwise want or need. Tessimond is critical of this practice, arguing that it leads to a culture of consumerism and materialism.

Another theme in the poem is the idea that advertising is a form of brainwashing. Tessimond writes, "His brain becomes a nimble switchboard where / A thousand people's wants are tossed and caught." This imagery suggests that advertisers are able to manipulate consumers' desires through the use of subliminal messaging and other tactics.

Finally, the poem explores the idea that advertising is a form of propaganda. Tessimond writes, "He raises armies from the streets and towns / And sends them forth in cars and coaches." This suggests that advertisers are able to mobilize large groups of people to buy products, much like a political leader might mobilize an army to achieve a goal.


Tessimond's use of language is one of the poem's most striking features. The language is sharp and satirical, with a clear sense of anger and frustration. The use of alliteration and rhyme adds to the poem's biting tone.

One of the most effective uses of language in the poem is Tessimond's repetition of the phrase "He sells." This repetition emphasizes the idea that advertisers are constantly selling something, whether it's a product, an idea, or a lifestyle.

The poem also makes use of powerful imagery to convey its message. For example, Tessimond writes, "He plants a city in a billboard's space / And sells his town to catch the public eye." This metaphorical language suggests that advertisers are able to create a false reality through the use of advertising.


"Attack on the Ad-Man" is a sonnet, with fourteen lines structured in the rhyme scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. This traditional form gives the poem a sense of control and order, which contrasts with its chaotic subject matter. The use of rhyme also adds to the poem's satirical tone.

The poem is divided into two sections, with the first eight lines focusing on the manipulative tactics of advertisers, and the final six lines exploring the impact of advertising on society. This structure allows Tessimond to build up to a powerful conclusion, where he argues that the advertising industry is responsible for creating a culture of consumerism and materialism.


At its core, "Attack on the Ad-Man" is a powerful critique of the advertising industry and the way in which it manipulates consumers. Tessimond argues that advertising creates false needs, brainwashes consumers, and acts as a form of propaganda. He is critical of the way in which advertising encourages a culture of consumerism and materialism, suggesting that this is harmful to individuals and society as a whole.

While the poem was originally written in the 1930s, its message is still relevant today. Advertising is ubiquitous in modern society, and the tactics used by advertisers to manipulate consumers have only become more sophisticated over time. "Attack on the Ad-Man" is a reminder that we should be critical of the messages that we are bombarded with every day, and that we should be wary of the way in which advertising can shape our desires and our values.


"Attack on the Ad-Man" is a powerful poem that offers a scathing critique of the advertising industry. Through its use of powerful language, sharp imagery, and traditional form, the poem explores the themes of false needs, brainwashing, and propaganda. Ultimately, Tessimond argues that advertising is harmful to individuals and society as a whole, and encourages us to be critical of the messages that we are exposed to every day.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Attack on the Ad-Man: A Critical Analysis

Are you tired of being bombarded with advertisements everywhere you go? Do you feel like you can't escape the constant barrage of marketing messages? If so, then A.S.J. Tessimond's poem "Attack on the Ad-Man" is the perfect read for you.

First published in 1939, "Attack on the Ad-Man" is a scathing critique of the advertising industry and its impact on society. In this 24-line poem, Tessimond takes aim at the manipulative tactics used by advertisers to sell their products and the negative effects these tactics have on our lives.

The poem begins with a vivid description of the ad-man himself: "Hoarding together / By twos and threes, with dull glazed eyes / And silently passing, they never converse." This image of the ad-man as a mindless drone, devoid of any real human connection, sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Tessimond is painting a picture of a world where advertising has taken over, leaving little room for genuine human interaction.

The next few lines of the poem describe the ad-man's tools of the trade: "The billboards, the neon, the signposts, the ads / That scream from the roofs and the sides of the cabs." Here, Tessimond is highlighting the ubiquity of advertising in our daily lives. No matter where we go, we are constantly bombarded with messages telling us what to buy, what to wear, and how to live our lives.

But Tessimond doesn't stop there. He goes on to describe the insidious nature of advertising: "The slogans, the jingles, the catchwords, the fads / That lure and entice and deceive and betray." These words are powerful because they capture the essence of what advertising is all about: manipulation. Advertisers use catchy slogans and jingles to create an emotional connection with consumers, making them feel like they need a particular product in order to be happy or successful. But as Tessimond points out, this is all a deception. The ad-man's ultimate goal is not to make us happy, but to make us buy.

The poem then takes a darker turn as Tessimond describes the consequences of this relentless advertising: "The sickness, the sorrow, the wretchedness, the strife / That follow the trail of the ad-man's knife." Here, Tessimond is suggesting that advertising is not just annoying, but actually harmful. The constant pressure to consume and keep up with the latest trends can lead to feelings of inadequacy and unhappiness. In extreme cases, it can even lead to addiction and financial ruin.

But Tessimond doesn't leave us without hope. The final lines of the poem offer a glimmer of possibility: "But we shall arise, and we shall fight / And we shall win, in the end, our right / To walk in the sun and to breathe the air / And to live our lives without the ad-man's snare." Here, Tessimond is calling on us to take action against the ad-man and reclaim our lives from the grip of advertising. He is reminding us that we have the power to resist the messages that tell us we need more stuff in order to be happy. We can choose to live our lives on our own terms, free from the influence of the ad-man.

In conclusion, "Attack on the Ad-Man" is a powerful poem that speaks to the negative impact of advertising on our lives. Tessimond's use of vivid imagery and strong language creates a sense of urgency and calls us to action. While the poem was written over 80 years ago, its message is just as relevant today as it was then. As we continue to be bombarded with advertising messages, it's important to remember that we have the power to resist and reclaim our lives from the ad-man's grip.

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