What inspired you to become a copywriter? Several things: A joke book that I constantly read aloud and exhausted my parents with. My mom saved it and recently gave it to my kids as payback.
Watching The Carol Burnett Show and reading Erma Bombeck books at way too young of an age. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve been a middle-aged suburban mom inside since I was seven.)
A love of writing, a love of laughing and the realization that I could earn good money doing both those things at the same time.
You contribute to June Cleaver Is Dead, WONGDOODY’s in-house consultancy that helps brands market to moms. What “mom” stereotypes are still rampant in 2018? That moms are all striving for this perfect, Pinterest-worthy life. That we’re all mostly married, straight, Caucasian, size six and drive a minivan that doesn’t have crumbs permanently imbedded in the console. That a single serving of organic yogurt or frozen eggplant parmesan or a spritz of air freshener is all we need to block out the chaos and reconnect with ourselves. That we’re all willingly and joyously volunteering for the PTA. That we smile angelically while doing housework. Know what I want to see? An ad where a mom is swearing under her breath the entire time she’s trying to get the f*cking grass stains out of her son’s white Little League uniform.
What are specific ways that the advertising industry can do better by women? Attending the 3% Conference last fall made me painfully aware that supporting women is just the start because we have failed historically in our representation of all minorities.
So, with that in mind:
- Make it a priority to promote and hire women for senior leadership positions—not as a token move, but in an effort to get to 50/50 male/female representation at all levels. And don’t stop there. Apply that same dedication to hiring for all forms of diversity.
- Eliminate the gender wage gap, period.
- Hire female directors.
- Support women and their partners during childbearing years by offering three months minimum paid family leave to mothers and one month to partners for the birth or adoption of a child.
- Provide adequate, comfortable, clean places for breastfeeding moms to pump when they return to work. Bathroom stalls don’t count. Gross.
- When new moms need to travel for work, pay for a travel companion like a grandma or nanny to come along and help care for the baby while the mom is working. Or if the baby doesn’t come along, pay for mom’s breast milk to be shipped home.
- Be compassionate. This does better by everyone.
How is today’s political climate impacting advertising? I believe it’s lighting a fire under us, more than ever, to make sure we use our powers for good. It’s easy to feel helpless and angry and want to hurl an anvil at the TV. But we have this loud, collective voice at our disposal and a million ways to reach people, help the underrepresented and make the world better. Whether it’s creating a whole campaign for social good, crafting some kick-ass protest signs or making sure our target audience feels accurately represented in the ads we’re making, we have a huge responsibility (and opportunity) to make people feel united in hope and love instead of divided by hate. Have I mentioned I’m an eternal optimist?
Thinking about how the industry has changed since you rejoined WONGDOODY, is a copywriter’s job easier or harder now? Harder, for sure. But not just for writers—I think that’s true for all creatives. It used to be that when you got an assignment, you knew the parameters. It was a :30 TV spot or an OOH board (remember those?) or even an entire campaign, but the goal was to come up with a creative solution that fell out of a campaign idea to fill a media buy. Now there are so many different ways to connect with an audience (and so many more ways for them to avoid connecting with you) that each channel requires a different tone and a different approach. A killer idea is still a killer idea, but the nuances of how you bring that idea to life in social, digital, retail and traditional channels are way more complicated than they used to be.
I also want to talk about how I “rejoined” WONGDOODY. Layoffs are so prevalent in our industry, but there’s this hush-hush mentality, like you can’t admit it happened to you. I was laid off from WONGDOODY in December 2009 after five years of being on staff. Pat Doody told me that day (with tears in his eyes), “There is no shame in layoffs. Only sadness.” I was devastated because I loved the place and the people. But guess what? It was the best thing that could have happened to me. It forced me out of my comfort zone and also gave me perspective on my talent and abilities that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. People came out of the woodwork, offering support, projects and praise. It was a gigantic ego boost, and I know this sounds crazy, but I’m grateful it happened. My point is, sometimes the things you fear the most turn out to be the things that offer the biggest opportunities for growth.
What excites you about joining forces with Infosys? WONGDOODY is famous (infamous?) for having ridiculously loyal employees. It’s one of our greatest strengths, but it’s also a weakness. Because when you work with the same people for five, ten, twenty years, it’s easy to get stagnant. Infosys has shaken things up for all of us longtimers and is causing us to learn new skill sets and look at our capabilities differently. We can think bigger because we now have access to more data, insights and talent to develop technology that supports our creative ideas. It’s a steep learning curve for sure, but six months ago, I couldn’t have told you what an agile insights platform was. Now, we’ve built one—The Mother Board—and I understand how it works. Mostly. Please don’t quiz me, though.
How has freelancing helped you grow in your career? Freelancing exposed me to more of everything: agencies, clients, creative approaches, internal processes, ways of doing things well and ways of doing them badly.
Jumping around between agencies, in-house and client-direct also made me realize that there’s no perfect company. Every place is awesome sometimes, and every place sucks sometimes. And good people make both the sucking and the awesomeness better. (Quick takeaway from ten collective years of freelancing: treat your employees as your most valuable asset and your clients with respect, and you’ll be in good shape. Treat employees or clients like a disposable commodity, and you’ll get exactly what you deserve.)
Freelancing also forced me to learn about super fun stuff like quarterly taxes, which entertainment I could deduct (all of it) and how to shop for decent, affordable-ish health insurance. I also had to get better at selling myself, which I think is tough for most creatives. Overall, it helped me become more of an all-around business person, which led to me being a smarter creative who can better empathize with clients.
How does writing a blog feed your work as a creative director, and vice versa? I love the craft of writing. Especially long copy, which there’s just not as much of anymore—except my answers to these questions, apparently. Blogging gives me someplace to write where I don’t have to conform to time limits, word counts, client expectations, eleven seconds of legal copy or deadlines. Actually, deadlines are helpful. Somebody wanna make me a blog-entry workback schedule so I will post more than once a quarter?
Most of all, when I get inspired to write a post, it puts me in touch with that giddy feeling I get when I totally lose myself in doing something I love. It’s the same feeling I used to get as an ad student with every new assignment. And that passion and excitement then spills into everything else.
Is writing an underappreciated creative tool? Only when people refer to the elements of a layout or project as “the creative” and “the copy.” Please don’t do that. It’s super irritating.