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A Copywriter Writes

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DAN WATSON

Kiwi copywriter.

Illustrator on the side.

This blog is filled with stuff that simply comes to mind that's too long to tweet.

It's mostly my observations as I try to make it in the advertising industry. It keeps me writing and, hopefully, gets you reading.

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  • October 18, 2012 11:06 pm

    The Worst Month Of My Professional Life or, Learning What Not To Do

    image

    I was once involved in a project for a telecom company.

    In my own opinion, it was one of the most hellish months I have ever spent during my time in the ad industry.

    If I were to ever describe something as a clusterfuck, now would be that time.

    Read More

  • June 25, 2012 2:58 pm

    Being Distinguishable or, The Joy Of Remembering

    Back in Kuala Lumpur, daily life was actually rather good.

    In a lot of ways, I personally had it easy.

    Going to the eateries across the road, going past condo security, hitting up the local bar or convenience store always yielded the same results: friendly smiles, excellent service and sometimes a discount.

    Why? Well, because basically, I was different.

    I stood out.

    Not just because I’m white, mind you.

    But when you’re a big, bald, bespectacled, benevolent white dude, you get noticed.

    And remembered.

    I was going against what I was surrounded by.

    As they say in advertising circles, I was zagging when everyone else was zigging. 

    I think it was two or three days after I moved into the Pelangi Condominium that security would wave me past the gate with a smile without having to go through the mandatory ID check.

    I began to be greeted by each of the Malay-Indian blokes at the mamak restaurant across the road and it wasn’t long before they started bringing me my usual without question.

    I even had one or two pints on the house at the local bar on some occasions.

    But why the special treatment? I hear you not actually asking.

    I have a theory.

    People love it when they remember something. It’s like a trick you got your brain to perform. Most of the time when you recognise something, it makes you happy.

    Watch closely someone who you might meet for the second time and they recognise you. There’s always that slight smirk as they mentally connect the pieces and stand back to admire the cerebral jigsaw they completed.

    Same with conversations about particular places or things. People like to join in because it’s a place they know or something they’re familiar with.

    You can notice the tiny celebration going on behind their eyes that they’ve seen something they recognise and welcome it.

    I mean, that’s the truth about people isn’t it? We stick to what we know.

    And what’s easy to remember?

    That which is distinguished from what we normally see; what stands out; what zags.

    In work and in life it’s an important question to ask.

    'Is what I'm doing distinguishable?'

    'Will I get that celebratory smirk when I'm recognised?'

    It spans from an art piece you’re planning, to a business model, to the outfit you’ll wear to a fancy party.

    Standing out makes you easy to remember.

    Your memory will then be welcomed.

    And on some occasions, rewarded.

  • January 13, 2012 3:01 pm

    A Taxi Ride I Won’t Forget Any Time Soon

    I was working late one night and the designer I stayed back with offered to drive me closer to my home so the taxi fare would be cheaper.

    She dropped me off in Bangsar (roughly 10-15 mins from my home in Kota Damansara) and a friendly taxi driver offered to take me home straight after.

    He took off around the back streets of Bangsar and started navigating the streets instead of taking the highway.

    "Oh, great. Another taxi driver who thinks I’m a tourist, trying to rip me off."

    I thought.

    He drove right past an on-ramp to the Penchala Link (direct route to my house).

    "Hey, why did you go past that?"

    "Sorry, boss. But they have the police checkpoints out."

    "So?"

    "You know what they’re looking for?"

    "Uh.."

    "They’re trying to catch the drunk ones! Haha!"

    "So what does that have to… Oh god…"

    "Ahh don’t worry boss! If they catch me, I have to pay the fine. Not you."

    "But this is costing me more money!"

    "Ah. Sorry boss."

    The fare ended up being more than I’d have paid if I got a taxi from work.



    Bloody Kuala Lumpur.

  • January 10, 2012 2:31 am

    An Awesome Night Out or, Fuck It

    I’m gonna go ahead and apologise to my father right now, who reads what I write often. He’s mentioned to me once or twice about the language I use on my blog. I foresee extended use of the F word.

    Katt Williams talked about a special hormone that is released into your system from time to time that physically enables you to have a good time.

    It’s called ‘Fuck It’.

    It specialises in the breaking down of inhibitions and when you ask yourself ‘Why?’, it askes ‘Why not?’

    Most people choose to induce this hormone with alcohol and recreational drugs. However, you have to get the dosage just right, otherwise you risk overshooting the Fuck It mark and just end up Fucked Up instead.

    But sometimes, the conditions are just right for the natural production of Fuck It and when that happens, it’s fucking sweet.

    My most recent successful experience with Fuck It happened just a couple of days before Christmas. Lucideas was having their Christmas party.

    Being the only guy in the office with facial hair, I thought I’d dye it white and be the resident Santa Claus for the evening. Why?

    "Because fuck it. That’s why."

    It’s looked hilarious. We pulled out a Santa suit that we’d been using for a client before and they said I should wear it and give out all the Secret Santa presents.

    "Fuck it! Where do I change?"

    I donned the suit and became the cheeky, foul-mouthed, wandering-handed Santa that made every single person in the agency sit on his lap and open their presents. 

    After which, the music was too good to just sit around and quietly drink beer with everyone else.

    "Fuck this! Let’s dance! Come on!"

    After getting five or six people from the agency to dance, the suggestion of taking this party to a club afterward surfaced.

    "Dan, you should totally wear the suit to the club!"

    "Alright, you’re on. We’re going clubbing!"

    The party started to wind down around 10pm and a group of us met up at a pub for pre-drinks.

    "Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas everybody!"

    I bellowed at the pub.

    A very satisfying cheer was shouted back. My Fuck It levels were rewarding me handsomely.

    A guy came over to our table and presented me with a pint of Guinness.

    "There you go, Santa."

    "Oh, thanks very much!"

    *sip*

    "No, all of it."

    "What? Skull it?"

    "Yeah."

    "Alright then."

    That’s when you gotta watch those Fuck It levels. You know you’re in the red zone when you start saying ‘yes’ to everything, even when there’s potential for bad consequences.

    "Yay, Santa!"

    "Yeah *burp* Great, whatever. Thanks for that."

    Fast forward.

    One of Lucideas’ designers and I pulled up outside Zouk, one of Kuala Lumpur’s many dance clubs and sauntered in.

    That classic feeling when everyone who looks at you, smiles.

    That less than modest feeling that you just became a line in someone’s story about their night.

    "And then Santa walked in!"

    We went to a private booth and ordered drinks.

    "Fuck it. I’m embracing this. If you want me, I’ll be on the dance floor."

    High-fives, handshakes, hugs, kisses, a couple of lap dances and many, many photos soon ensued.

    I met many people and forgot many names.

    This was vague, but I was told some guy had to drag his girlfriend away because she was getting too friendly with me.

    I’ll take that.

    I managed to ride that wave almost to dawn.

    The night was epic to say the least.

    And all because I decided to fuck it and do something I had never done before.

    These are the kinds of things that happen when you take opportunities as they come and dive head first into the unknown.

    That’s how I want 2012 to be.

    More ‘fuck it’ moments that lead to awesome happenings. In my social life and my work.

    I’ve already made the resolution to go back to Zouk at Chinese New Year, dressed as the God of Prosperity.

    Happy New Year 

    -Dan

  • September 20, 2011 12:37 pm

    It’s Largely Luck or, Sometimes Father Fate Wants To Give You A Leg Up

    So the other week, as I have previously pointed out, Yew Leong Tan dropped by Lucideas for a chat.

    He spoke to us about his illustrious 23-year career working at Leo Burnett Malaysia for 16 of them, eventually becoming Executive Creative Director with Yasmin Ahmad. He spoke specifically about the amazing work he and Yasmin did for Petronas.

    I also learned a secret to how they sold that amazing work.

    It wasn’t the hours. Although, that probably would’ve helped.

    It wasn’t superior Powerpoint presentations. However, I’ve been told that Smart Art and animations can arguably make or break your client meeting.

    I wasn’t really any major skill that anyone can simply develop over the course of their career.

    It was mostly luck.

    Hmph. Well, shit.

    Being more spiritually inclined. Yew Leong called it ‘God’s Will’.

    He said it was a good idea, yes. But it was also persuasively presented.

    To open-minded clients.

    Whom they had a trusting relationship with.

    That’s quite a few factors.

    There was one particular idea that wouldn’t be where it is today without a stroke of luck.

    Many industry professionals will be familiar with the TVC Tan Hong Ming in Love.

    In 2008, it won at Cannes, the Clios, D&AD, the Media Spikes, the Kancils, the Andy Awards, One Show, the Asia Pacific AdFest, the CUP Awards plus many others.

    What’s interesting is the charm and charisma that cherries the idea was born out of luck.

    Let’s note that it takes a rather humble creative to admit this.

    What’s magic about this is as they were filming, the bell rang and little Ummi came out and what happened next was totally unscripted. The look of happy shock on Hong Ming’s face was genuine and perfect. The only bit of direction given was when Yasmin told them both to walk away (her voice was cut out obviously).

    Again, this would never have happened if they didn’t randomly decide to film by the classrooms and filmed by a tree on the field as originally planned.

    It just happened.

    Everything fell into place of fate’s own volition.

    I doubt this is first nor the last time you’ll hear a story like this. I know I’ve heard it more times than Charlie Sheen’s had sex.

    Industry stars have called the secret to successful work all sorts of name; modestly referring to it as luck, God’s Will, an alignment of stars, or a very intricate pattern of wearing unwashed lucky underwear every second day after lunch time except on Tuesdays.

    Knowing this I suppose we can all relax a bit, knowing that sometimes our successes are out of our control.

    Having said this, that’s not to actually say you can’t work towards it.

    Considering the above stories about the ECDs at Leo Burnett Malaysia, easily persuading a client helps if they’re open-minded, which helps if you have a trusting relationship, which takes a lot of work to achieve.

    The random decision to film Hong Ming near the classrooms led to Ummi wandering onto the shoot early, which led to her unscripted admission of considering Hong Mong her boyfriend, triggering his priceless expression of shock and delight. The icing on the cake was Yasmin’s direction to walk away, an on the spot decision which comes from years of experience making films.

    So yes, I suppose I do agree that a lot of the time when creating great work, things simply fall into place.

    But it is the insertion of your hard work and dedication that positions those things directly above where you’d like them to fall.