2 Jul 2010

The ignorant copywriter

I am ignorant.

It's true.

I don't think I'm an ignorant person. I have been to an art gallery, gone on holiday outside of Spain and eaten with chopsticks. However, I am selectively ignorant when it comes to advertising.

People often see ignorant as a negative word, when in fact it can be a positive. To illustrate this, I'd like to tell you the story about how I became the most ignorant junior copywriter.

One day I was (genuinely) ill. Instead of going to the design agency where I worked at the time, I stayed at home and played games on the internet. In between games I checked my twitter feed. While I was doing this, I noticed that someone had retweeted a post by the D&AD president, Paul Brazier. It said that he would give a book crit to the first 5 advertising students to respond to his tweet. I'd always wondered what it would be like to work in the ad world, so I tweeted him. I didn't think I'd win, as I thought there would probably be a hundred D&AD students hanging on his every word. Also (although I didn't think about it at the time) I wasn't an advertising student, I was a graduate.

One week later I was bouncing off the walls. I'd won a book critique. However, I also had no book to critique. Plus I didn't know anything about the advertising scene. I also didn't know anything about what was expected from my book crit except for the fact that I needed a book.

I had 3 weeks to get a book together from nothing, so I phoned my tutor to get a couple of briefs and arrange to meet up and talk about what I could expect. When we met up we never got round to talking about my expectations, but I did get a couple of briefs; I then spent two weeks making the rest up to fill in the areas I thought were lacking.

Flash forward 3 weeks and I'm sat at the Wyndham hotel, round the corner from AMV. It's 6pm the day before my crit. I walk round the corner to check out the reception. It's big, but it's not all made of marble, so it can't be that bad. I go to the 2-Point Thai restaurant and sit alone with a notebook so that the waiters think I'm a food critic and give me good service. I go home after a couple of beers and go to sleep. I still have no idea of what to expect, or whether my book is awesome or awful.

The next morning I wake up at 8am, have a shower and gather my things. I have to check out at 10am and my crit is at 11am, so I cram everything in to my backpack so that I don't walk in to the reception with 3 shopping bags looking like a twat.

11am comes and I walk round the corner. After introducing myself at reception I lounge about trying not to look like a Northerner, until Christine (Paul's PA) comes down and offers me a free coffee, which as a Northerner I obviously take. After journeying to the 6th floor I am introduced to Paul. I won't go through the minutiae of the crit, but it went pretty well, apart from me knocking my book on to the floor as Paul walked in.

Anyway, it went well enough that Paul's comments pushed me to change my career and go in to advertising, even though at the time I knew virtually nothing about it.

My point is that sometimes knowing nothing can be good. Though difficult to achieve in an industry saturated by media about the media, ignorance allows you to view through the eyes of a person without prejudice, judgment or predisposition. Or in other words, through the eyes of a consumer.

As I continue my journey in to advertising I'd like to try and distance myself from reading about trends, fashions or awards. I don't want to read books about how to do well in advertising.

A wise man once said that the mind is like a cup, the fuller it gets, the less room there is for any more.

In order to learn, you must first empty your mind.


  1. "A wise man once said that the mind is like a cup, the fuller it gets, the less room there is for any more."

    I'm not sure if the mind has a limit on its capacity.

    I think its more a question of what you expose yourself too, you wont see me picking up the Metro.

    There are book's on adverting that save you some real time, and there is some utter shite. My view is you should consume both, and use your common sense to decipher whats worth remembering.

    Great blog guys, keep it up.

  2. So ‘ignorant’ that you forget to use an apostrophe when needed – hmm…


  3. Hi B

    Amended, thanks for pointing it out. I'm going to blame it on writing it at 2am.