I didn’t set out to be a copywriter. Like most things in life, it was the result of fate, timing and a little luck. (Good or bad luck, I’m still not sure.)
My first foray into advertising came at a small, 10-person shop in Richmond, Virginia. It didn’t pay much – and by much, I mean nothing-but it was enough for me to hang up my waiter‘s apron for good. Originally hired as an art director, it became quickly apparent I was better suited to write witty headlines and copy people didn’t actually loathe. So, there I was… a copywriter. Why the hell not?
Since then, I’ve spent most of my career at The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia- an agency consistently recognized as being one of the top creative shops in the U.S. Known in creative circles as a “writer’s agency”, Martin was the perfect place to hone my writing chops while working for brands as diverse as Wal-Mart, Saab, UPS, X-Games, Pizza Hut and others.
Though my work has been recognized by the likes of The One Show, Communication Arts Annual, Art Directors Annual and other advertising organizations, I get the most thrill taking projects left for dead and making them shine. To me, the best solution to any communication problem is the simple but elusive one, lying below the surface that no one sees. Sounds cliché, but “Less is more” are words I live by.
I’m proud of many things in my portfolio, and even though I’ve done flashy multimillion-dollar campaigns and even a Super Bowl spot, I find it’s the smaller, shoestring budget jobs which bring me most joy. Yes, being featured in the CA Annual felt good. But when I heard students were stealing the anti-anorexia posters I designed and hanging them in their school lockers, well, that really made my day. I’m still trying to impress my three,twenty-something nieces. Maybe one day.
After decades residing in my beloved home state of Virginia, I decided to head north and try my luck in NYC as a freelancer. The last five or so years here have been interesting to say the least. I’ve done fun work for advertisers like Microsoft and Casper and helped agencies like Grey, McCann, M:United, FCB Draft and Red Antler pitch clients and launch campaigns. Why it’s almost enough to make up for the exorbitantly high rent here. Almost.
Thoughts on being a freelancer in Brooklyn? (Did I mention how high the NYC rent is?) When it’s good, it’s great. There’s amazing talent here but a lot of needlessly inflated egos, too. Fortunately, I’ve found the best creatives are those who are also decent, down-to-earth people who realize how silly this business can get. As a freelancer, I like that I can keep my head down, work hard and not get mired in the day-to-day politics of agency life. There’s a real sense of freedom in that. Health insurance is very expensive here- a problem those of you reading in Canada and Europe, fortunately, will never understand. We’ll get there one day.
Financially speaking, things have been relatively good. I will say the current caustic political climate (Read: Trump) has put a damper on things- even in a liberal enclave like NYC. Also, the ad industry here is undergoing a seismic shift here as it is internationally with more advertisers taking creative duties in-house and relying heavily on – to a fault, I’d say- on Facebook and other social media. I could prattle on how the current cult-like fascination with data and short-term metrics is at risk of endangering brands down the road. But for now, I’ll stay off my soapbox.
How long will I be in the Big Apple? I have no idea. There’s a big world out there and it’d be a shame not to see it all. To date, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with great European shops like 180 Amsterdam, Robert/Boisen and Like-Minded, Great Works and I’d love to work with more. (Forsman & Bodenfors, are you listening?) I’ve even picked up some Danish, Swedish and French from my travels. Just enough to get me in trouble.
Anyway, thanks for reading a little bit about me. If nothing else perhaps my experiences can serve as a cautionary tale for young writers or maybe you’re inspired to drop me a line and just say, “Hi”. Either works.