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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  Diary of a Copywriter: The power of one. More specifically, me.

Diary of a Copywriter: The power of one. More specifically, me.

Posted on September 18, 2011 and read 3,432 times

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lindsay Diary of a Copywriter: The power of one. More specifically, me. Lindsay Smith

Before I got into advertising, I was a journalist. The CBC kind and everything. I took a microphone into the rough landscape that is Prince Edward Island and reported on things like potatoes, Anne of Green Gables and a woman who made her entire home out of garbage and recycled materials.

I was surrounded by people who lived and breathed the news. The whole writing part of the job was important, but kind of took a backseat to deadlines and story meetings and editing sound and OMG WE NEED IT NOW and the grumpy lady who ate KFC everyday and grunted at me every time I brought baked goods to work to share with everyone. I don’t know what her problem was. She had a one-way ticket on the hate train. Destination: You-suck-ville.

My first day at an agency, I settled into my desk, tried to look like I knew what I was doing and Googled the only thing I knew about ads. The Superbowl.

Then I was a told they had a small brief for me. “A what?” I thought. Unfortunate men’s underwear came to mind. But then, a curly haired account person came to see me with a print out.

So, I did what any keener at a new job would do. I rolled up my sleeves, spit on my palms, and rubbed my hands together.

Not really. But that sounds like something someone at a new job should do. If they’re a baseball player or something.

The account person showed me the print out. And there it was. The monstrous brief. One sentence.

One. Whole. Sentence.

“Is this okay? I need to send it to the client.

I might have stared at her for several minutes. A total of seven words stared back at me from the page. Here I was, all ready to be professional and creative and this was my task? To check a sentence? “Don’t you know how to write?” I wanted to ask her. But maybe she didn’t. Not everyone passes kindergarten.

Instead, I did what any hardworking creative person does. I sighed loudly, put my feet up on the desk, and told her I needed at least another day to figure it out, while shaking my head and throwing the print out on the desk. I couldn’t possibly work under these constrictions and I’d probably have to go to a movie before I could even look at it again.

Then I secretly rejoiced in how much power I had in this new industry I had joined. Clearly, advertising was nothing like journalism.

  • Thomas Smith

    I was a journalist before starting at an agency too. But not the CBC kind (though I did work there for a summer). The hip, young magazine kind. My biggest observation over the year-and-a-bit since I got into ads is, despite all the industry navel-gazing and self-congratulation, there’s a great deal less creativity in making an ad campaign than putting together a story. 

    Sure, I’ve gotten a few interesting things out the door, but there are so many levels of bureaucracy in advertising that creative control always goes to people whose objectives do not seem to take the audience into account. I understand that this is a gigantic cliché, but all the talk about “creativity” seems massively overblown to me.

    I sort of snicker to myself every time I hear someone talking about how CREATIVE their banana-that-looks-like-a-bridge or whatever is.

  • Sheena Rina

    Hahaha I like this a lot. I’m a designer hoping to get into copywriting, it’s hard, but so rewarding.

    So when does part two come out? Very interested to see how this all ended.

  • Lindsay Smith

    This is part three! More to come, however. 

  • Lindsay Smith

    Yah, it’s a different world. I sometimes miss the “freedom” to write whatever I want. Even though in journalism is not that free either. There are different kinds of restraints. Advertising is like a puzzle. You have to figure out how to fit all these things into one message. 

  • Gary Paitre

    funny. as usual

  • Thomas Smith

    Some ads are great, of course. That thing Romain Gavras did for Adidas with the Mexican boxers and the Sebastien Tellier song is so fantastic that it borders on art.

    But I think there’s a lack of humility combined with an inflated sense of importance in advertising that isn’t there in other creative fields I’ve worked in. Maybe ad people have to be overconfident since everyone not in the industry generally hates ads more than anything else.

  • Melanie Wallace

    Oh Lindsay! How I love you’re writing. 

  • Lindsay Smith

    Aw, thanks Mel. 

  • Lindsay Smith

    Hah. Yah, advertising is sort of an insular industry. Even incestuous, perhaps. Nobody cares about all the awards and stuff besides advertising people. 

    Someone really smart, maybe it was Luke Sullivan, said you have to wear your business hat and your artist hat at the same time. I think that’s a pretty good description. We’re not making art or saving the world, here. At the end of the day, we’re selling stuff, albeit in a creative way. 




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