A Copywriter Writes

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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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  • February 1, 2012 6:26 pm

    Getting Life Experience or, Watching TV Is Part Of The Job

    My first (creative) partner was a girl in my ad school during my third year doing a Bachelor of Communications at AUT.

    She was great, we did a lot of interesting work together.

    There was one thing about her that I found odd.

    She didn’t watch television.

    Her family didn’t have one. She was raised like this. Instead of watching TV, she’d pursue hobbies like dancing, which is all well and good because she was an excellent dancer.

    And her parents took her to different countries when she was little, so she was well travelled. Phenomenally so.

    But she didn’t watch television.

    And to me, this left a gap in her thinking.

    Sometimes, I would suggest an angle we could explore or lines we could use based on popular culture originating from a TV show, and she would come back to me; expressionless.

    I think there was one time I mentioned a TV character like Captain Planet.


    "Captain Planet. You know, the Planeteers? Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Heart? Go, Planet?"

    "Nope. Are you sure people know who that is?"

    "Are you serious?!" 

    Good advertising messages stem from insights. Insights about the product, where it’s made, how to use it, the people that use it, an so on.

    The best advertising messages stem from life insights. Aspects of daily living that transcend language, age and gender boundaries.

    And the best way to come up with these life insights is to experience life.

    If you’re disconnected somehow, you’re not going to reach those crucial truths you need.

    In a way, this means to travel; see different people and cultures and view life from a unique perspective.

    In a more realistic way, this means to branch out from what you already do.

    Just because Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin and Barney hang out at MacLaren’s Pub all the time, doesn’t mean it’s cool for you to do as well.

    Read a book you by an author you don’t normally read; see a movie you wouldn’t see; watch TV, a lot; go to a restaurant you haven’t been to and order something you don’t normally eat.

    Every new thing you do gives you a new perspective and broadens your thinking.

    You could notice how people who can’t handle spicy food look like they’re taking a Lamaze class when they eat, or how the majority of commuters read books on the train, or all the weird tips and tricks for picking out perfect produce you learn from farmer’s market patrons.

    They can all birth interesting ideas that come from simple life insights.

    Another thing I would recommend is to watch a lot of stand up comedians. All and any you can. Local ones, international ones, male ones, female ones, transgender ones, old ones, young ones, Irish ones, American ones, Spanish ones, Chinese ones, Nigerian ones, bad ones, really bad ones, all of them.

    Especially those who specialise in observational humor.

    What these people do for a living is take even the tiniest life insight, like the faces men make when we shave, and turn it into something relatable, funny and entertaining.

    Gee, that sounds familiar.

    And you can tell they’ve hit the nail on the head with these details of daily life because of the immediate laughter from the audience.

    Young creatives could learn a lot from these people. The more you watch, the more perspective you benefit from - it’s simple.

    As a creative (especially one working in advertising), you’re not just living life, you’re exploring it. And the best way to do that is just do something different from time to time.

    A friend of mine, Iain Nealie, a creative at TBWA\Tequila in Auckland, once did something as simple as using a different mode of transport to go to work each day for a week.

    He managed it (walk, run, car, skateboard, bus).

    Simple as that.

    Or just at least make sure you’re getting enough TV each day.