Leonard Erikson served as the seventh Director of the Voice of America, 1953 – 1954. Erikson previously served as vice president of the McCann Erickson firm. Despite the similarity of names, he had no relationship to the firm aside from working there. When named VOA director, the name confusion arose again, leading the State Department to relay that Mr. Erikson claimed to have “spent many years of his life explaining that his connection with the Erickson firm was strictly coincidental.” McCann Erickson was a ‘big four’ global advertising firm responsible for many world-famous campaigns, including the 1971 commercial “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke”.
During Erikson’s time at the Voice of America, the spread of a free, unbiased press was fighting the growing influence of communist ideology and press suppression in East Berlin, the Soviet Union, and Communist China. With the death of Joseph Stalin in April of 1953, VOA’s influence was all the more important in countering strong propaganda campaigns emanating from Soviet leadership. Erikson was the final VOA director under the State Department; in late 1953 VOA was moved into the newly-created U.S. Information Agency, and soon relocated from New York City to Washington, D.C.