Show, Don’t Tell: A “Help Provided” Prose Poem Campaign

Show, Don’t Tell: A “Help Provided” Prose Poem Campaign

In my desire to “Show, Don’t Tell,” and to chronicle the prelude to my third career act, I’ve been writing prose poems about my career, the communications industry, and some of the philosophies that guide me.

I published more than a dozen of these prose poems on LinkedIn. Now, I’m offering eight of the poems in one package here.


According to the Poetry Foundation, a prose poem is a prose composition, while not broken into verse lines, that demonstrates other traits such as symbols, metaphors, and other figures of speech common to poetry.

Poetry Is A Clear Point of Difference

As someone who writes ads and marketing copy for clients, I like the idea that poetry and art can be used to inform commerce. I also like the idea that poetry can be a point of difference for me in my search for meaningful work.

When looking for work, you’re looking for people. In my case, I am seeking to connect with business and community leaders who need help communicating their marketplace value.

There are marketers in the world today who believe they can simply state their offer and win—no personality, charm, creativity, or strategic planning necessary. I’m not looking for these marketers and they’re not looking for me.

I’m a good fit for marketers committed to pursuing a clear point of difference in the marketplace. A clear point of difference starts with the product or service and moves from there to how people inside and outside the company talk about (and think about) the product or service.

To make a brand culturally relevant today, and to give people something to talk and think about, we often infuse brand communications with arts and culture. Lowbrow. Highbrow. It’s all up for grabs.

When I work with clients on a brand communications problem, I reach back to my training like everyone else. I was trained to read and write poems, stories, essays, and news.

Today, I believe in the use of poetry and poetic frameworks to advance the objectives of a business, cause, or political campaign. To get an idea to stick and to get people to share it, there has to be a short powerful punch of words.

To tap one legendary line, “Where’s the beef?” … it is not poetry. It’s advertising that benefits from poetic construction.

My Presentation to Advertising & PR Students at the University of Texas

My Presentation to Advertising & PR Students at the University of Texas

I was invited to speak to undergraduates at the Stan Richards School of Advertising & PR at the University of Texas. The invite came from the Association of National Advertisers in New York City.

The suggested topic for this guest lecture was “My Work as a Creative Director,” plus any tips I may have for graduating seniors seeking work in advertising, media, or marketing.

With the lecture hall as my stage, I brought a strong point of view forward and shared it with the students. One of the things I said is:

Ads Can Solve Powerful Problems

I wanted to leave the students with the idea that there are no limits on what can be achieved for a client, and that some client “at-bats” are more important than others.

During the Q+A following my slides, I was asked some great questions. One question that I thought was smart to ask, was:

What do you know now about working in the ad business that you wish you knew when you entered the business?

I said I wish I took seriously just how fragile one’s reputation inside the industry is, and that somehow we all must find a way to be nice, likable, and a pleasure to work with…without losing our standards or creative edge.

RFPs Are a Waste of Precious Time

There’s a wealth of highly specialized marketing talent available to brands today, but few brand managers know exactly where to look to find a good fit for their most pressing needs. 

Sure, the brand manager may read the trades — and maybe she has a robust network of peers to tap for recommendations — but that’s not the most reliable pathway to take when the business need is acute and the need for an answer is long past due.

Enter the request for proposal. RFPs are commonplace today, and they are often dismissed by savvy new-business professionals as a waste of human resources. If a client sends out 20 or more RFPs and then has a handful returned to sift through and assess, there will be more losers than winners. That’s just math.

Read the entire piece on

More Twitter Love from CA!

More Twitter Love from CA!

The person who runs the Communication Arts Twitter account likes the #AdLegends series on I am grateful.

CA is the creative industry’s standard-bearer, and each Tweet sent from @CommArts is seen by a segment of the magazine’s 81,300 followers.

To see previous Tweets that CA sent to promote my writing, visit this page on

The Answer To the Brand Riddle Is Consistent Investment

Differentiate or die. That’s the mountain that all tech startups must climb. I wrote an article about it and was kind enough to publish it.

When the Product Does All the Talking, Where Does Brand Marketing Fit In?

Reaching the Audience

In the article, I discuss how the cultures of an agency that builds brands and tech startups are fundamentally on separate pages.

Going to market with a minimum viable product is common practice, but it’s not good for a new brand. From a brand impression perspective, anything you do that is underwhelming is a major ding to your image. Yes, iterating rapidly is required, but in brand communications, you do not “move fast and break stuff.” You make a map of the customer journey and meet your VIPs (a.k.a. customers) at every step along the purchase consideration path. 

My team moves faster than most. We are lean and we can do that. Even so, we follow a well-developed process that produces desired results, and it all takes time. And time requires trust, a financial investment, and a long-term vision.

Who has time for such things?

Companies that invest in ‘brand’ and truly care about the experiences they create for customers are the companies worth significantly more at the end of the day. This is why it’s worth it and why great brands make the time and invest the money to do it right. They’re playing the long game.

Between Tears

by David Burn

Between tears
Room for unbridled fears

A change of gears
Open ears

Seeing with mirrors
Doubt reappears

The unruly crowd leers
There are facetious cheers

A cascading veil of years
A quiver of spears

Between tears
News smears and confusion interferes

Alienation among peers
Rumors that no one and everyone hears

Still, we dream of deers
We reach frontiers

We are brazen cavaliers
We enter far out spheres

The rent is no longer in arrears
Time for starry premiers

More promises from pamphleteers
More conversions from profiteers

New bridges from engineers
Let’s head to the Berkshires

There will be souvenirs
There will be mutineers

Between tears
Love adheres

Best New Music of 2020

2020 has been a mess of a year on so many levels. For one, live music came to a total standstill. We are still standing still during this last week of the year.

Thankfully, when times get tough, artists get busy.

What did not stop this year is the writing and performing of music (in socially distanced studios). In fact, you could argue that 2020’s recorded music is truly outstanding by any measure. But why discuss such matters, when you can push play and listen?

The 21 songs in this playlist are standout tracks. Each track is also a signpost to the artist’s new album.

Laura Veirs, Jerry Joseph, Margo Price, Alicia Keys, Destroyer, Wolf Parade, Chuck Prophet, My Morning Jacket, and so many more musicians offered us songs of beauty and harmony in 2020—exactly what we need to shift from chaos to peace, and from collective despair to a new hopefulness.

Two Copywriters, One Shared Vision for Fostering Creative Excellence

Two Copywriters, One Shared Vision for Fostering Creative Excellence

I was honored when a colleague reached out to me recently and requested an interview to run on his company’s blog. Todd Anthony and I have been in the same social media orbit for years. Todd, who is executive creative director at Pinwheel Content in the Bay Area asked to meet on Zoom. He recorded our chat and then transcribed it, which gives the text a conversational tone that it would otherwise not possess. Here’s a small sample from our chat. Click over to Pinwheel Content for the full interview.

Todd: How would you describe copywriters as a group? What are the unique qualities about them?

David: Honestly, they’re all over the place. Writers are artists. Narrative artists. They can be difficult, strange, and un-business-like. They’re misfits, yes, but I think of all that as being a very good thing. If you can bring that to the suits and their corporations, who are stiff and boring and scared, you can make a difference for their customers…and that’s important.

If we have to be the court jester, well okay, there’s something to that, too. I remember many times going over to Coors and the clients were looking forward to it. They’d say, “Here come the creatives, they’re going to tell us stories and make us laugh for an hour.” That’s really valuable.

So we’re the court jesters of the advertising and marketing world. It’s because we’re the storytellers. We’re ready to walk into a room and captivate. And that’s not done with your notes and screens. That’s done with your personality and your intelligence.

Design Internship Featured in Franklin & Marshall College News

Design Internship Featured in Franklin & Marshall College News

I graduated with a B.A. in English from Franklin & Marshall College in 1987.

Yuhang Wang graduated from F&M in May with a B.A. in Art.

Last summer, Yuhang reached out to me via F&M’s True Blue Network, and asked if I could help her find a job or internship. She showed me her student work in theater set design, plus her fine art, and I knew right away that she’s an extraordinary talent.

I extended her a paid internship offer and it was one of the best decisions that I’ve made in years. She’s an outstanding intern and a wonderful person.

“You want to see the fine artist in a designer, just like you want to see the writer in a copywriter,” Burn said. “Thanks to what we’ve learned at F&M, we’re prepared to infuse the business world with art, writing, and meaning.”

One of the goals of the internship is to help Yuhang find and land a great job. Thanks to recent client wins at Bonehook, I am now hopeful that I can provide the job she wants, starting in January 2021.

Ad Chatter, the New Podcast from

Once upon a time, we used to stand around the water fountain and or coffee pot and discuss ads for a few minutes before heading back to our designated cubicle.

Today, Dan Goldgeier and I meet on Zoom to chat about the business. New tech, same compulsion.

New logo by Yuhang Wang

Did you know?

Current Podstats:

  • Brands that advertise their products and services on business podcasts enjoy an average 14% rise in purchase intent
  • 54% of podcast consumers say they think about buying advertised products
  • 2 million podcasts are registered by Google
  • The podcast advertising market grew 48% last year, to $708 million, according to an IAB/PwC report

All episodes of Ad Chatter are now available on Buzzsprout \ Apple Podcasts \ Spotify \ Stitcher \ Amazon Music \ Listen Notes \ Deezer \ Podchaser \ Podcast Addict \ Google Podcasts