The McCann Time Capsule: ‘Jingle Jim’ Dickey on the Coke Account
McCann’s late 1955 win of the U.S. Coca-Cola business was a landmark advertising event not just for the agency, but for the industry at large. With McCann and Coke extending a relationship first formed internationally a decade earlier and with the U.S. assignment then becoming the launch platform for a worldwide approach to communications, the account switch has become an important marker in the history of global advertising.
It also has played a role in America’s literary history.
One of the new copywriters who joined McCann New York in 1956 (and later Atlanta) to work on the brand was 33-year-old James Dickey, also then writing poetry (though, as he acknowledged, “on company time”) but still four years away from publishing his first book of poems and a decade away from winning the National Book Award.
“I wrote many hundreds of catch phrases for Coke. . . ‘Things go better with Coke’ may have been based on an idea I had and turned in. . .,” Dickey later recalled. He began in print and then “moved into the radio-television end of it” where, as he told the Paris Review in a 1976 interview, “I was known not as Jungle Jim, but as Jingle Jim.”
While Dickey was “glad” to leave the advertising business, he also told the magazine that he remembered it “with affection and a certain amount of gratitude.” He said, “It's a fascinating and exciting way to live. It's very frustrating; it's got its hang-ups; it's a man-killing pace; and it's tremendously difficult. But I love business people and I met some really terrific people whom otherwise I wouldn't have known. . . I enjoyed it. There's something about the nine-to-five existence and the five-thirty cocktails after work on Friday afternoons and talking over the problems of the week with your buddies who are working on the same problems that's really kind of nice.”
While Dickey would also serve as the U.S. Poet Laureate, he’s most famous for the 1970 novel he wrote, “Deliverance,” which was then adapted two years later into an Oscar-winning movie (Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Film Editing).