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We're drifting apart – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

We’re Drifting Apart (handling life in the creative department Part 2)

Are you a Copywriter or Art Director working in a two-person creative team?

You know the quote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…?”

If you’ve been beavering away as a team for more than the honeymoon period, you’ll know why it goes on to say:

“…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

Makes you wonder if Charles Dickens was an adman.

Being in a creative team can be like waltzing on rose-scented marshmallow clouds. Ideas, banter and giggles. Riding the crest of a big fat sexy creative wave, winning awards, rising through the ranks; you and your mucker against the world.

Then again, it can be a bloody war of attrition.

We're drifting apart 2 – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

How to survive in a creative team

I’ve worked with a dozen creative partners over the years.

Before I go any further, may I take this opportunity to thank you all for some magical moments and also to apologise for any episodes, tantrums or AWOLs that I may have subjected you to along the way.

Without you, I wouldn’t be half the creative Herbert that stands before you now, so here’s to you, Ladies and Gents.

A recipe for success

When the planets align, the synergy of Art Director and Copywriter working together in harmony is a joy to behold.

We're drifting apart 3 – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

Now, this beautiful relationship can go one of two ways:

1) The creative work flows and the boss loves you. Your production rate goes up, you’re given the best briefs and the portfolio just keeps getting better.

2) You’re the star team and everyone wants to hang out with you. You’re having a right laugh. It’s all 8-hour lunches and sleeping under the desk. What deadline? One more for the road? Ay-I-reallyreally-luv-you-yermybezfreninth’world-fanzee-a-kebab?

It’s great to be mates. But, if the work isn’t being done, the cracks will eventually show. When you get to the end of the year and you realise that you’ve done nothing portfolio-worthy, and half of your salary went on fine wine and pork scratchings, you know trouble will be poking its snotty nose around the next corner.

A recipe for disaster

Creative teams can be thrown together in all manner of ways. You meet at college, through a headhunter, online at singlecreatives.com or you get hired and the CD shoves you in a cell with a stranger that you’re going to have to learn to get along with.

We're drifting apart 4 – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

Here are the signs that it may not work out the way you’d both hoped.

1) One of you is in 2 hours before the other every day, trying to make up for lost time.

2) You won’t share ideas until they’re almost fully formed.

3) You enjoy the days that your partner is off more than the days they are in.

4) You never do anything socially together, not even popping out for a coffee.

5) They close their laptop and look guilty every time you walk into the office.

6) You have their picture on a dartboard at home.

How can you rekindle the magic?

If you work with someone 5 days a week, you spend more time with them than your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse…

Like diving buddies or Arctic explorers, you rely on each other for your survival.

And like an old married couple that stare into space at the dinner table, sometimes you need to spice things up.

1) Get out of the office to walk and talk to each other.

2) Get out of the office to chat ideas over a cuppa or a pint.

3) If you’re not getting the best briefs, nick them or make up your own and come up with something for the book that gets you excited.

4) Be honest with each other. If they’re driving you mad, get it out in the open (don’t forget to tell them why you love them too).

5) Do something together that takes you out of your comfy jumper zone: white water rafting, karaoke, pottery classes, whatever makes you feel slightly uneasy, but in a nice way.

What do you do if the magic’s completely fizzled out?

If you’ve stopped learning from each other, if it’s getting progressively more difficult to tease decent work out, or if you want to smashtheirflippinfaceineverytimetheyopentheirstupidmouth; it’s time for action.

We're drifting apart 5 – blog post by Jonathan Wilcock, freelance copywriter

Stick two creative egos in a room together 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for two years and the oddest things can happen.

I worked with a creative partner who went completely off the rails. One minute they were their usual lovable selves, the next they were tearing up my layouts because they were convinced they could see the devil in them.

I tried to cope with it for a few weeks, but in the end I had to talk to the Creative Director.

Cut a long story short, we were split up and teamed with different Art Directors and Copywriters from the same department. My new partner was a genius and we had a fantastic time until mass redundancies hit (see my previous post ‘Problem Schmoblem‘).

Last thing I heard, my previous creative partner found his niche in fine art and the guy he ended up with went on to do great work at some of the best agencies in town.

If you’re in an unhappy, destructive or non-productive creative team; move on as soon as you possibly can. Life and your career are far too short to plod along miserably with a Copywriter or Art Director who’s the wrong fit.

And if you do find the Yin to your Yang, play nicely together. You’re career may depend on it.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Problem?Schmoblem! – Freelance Copywriter, Jonathan Wilcock

Problem? Schmoblem! (handling life in the creative department Part 1)

At the risk of getting a bit deep and philowotsical on you, I’ve come to realise that problems are our friends.

Without problems, we would grind to a halt.

Not that I’d wish great big problems on anyone, but the right problem has a habit of manifesting itself at exactly the right time for the right person.

Let’s take redundancy as a good example of a fairly juicy problem.

Being a member of the creative department in an advertising or design agency is a fairly precarious place to be. The curse of the big account win, followed by the big account loss, leaves us all vulnerable. In a money-saving exercise, even the senior creatives and creative hotshots are at risk.

If you’ve been in advertising or design for 15 years and not been made redundant yet, you’re either some sort of bullet-dodging superhero, so badly paid that it makes no sense in getting rid of you or you’ve always been self-employed.

Redundancy saga 1
Two years into my advertising career, I was called in to the Creative Director’s office and given the bad news. Something about recession, budget cuts, wiffle-waffle and the sound of mashed potato hitting a sponge in an echo chamber with the reverb button set at 11. The Head of Art bought me a bottle of Champagne and told me it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me (while I stared into space).

I spent the next 3 months in a daze, wondering what the hell I would do next. No one was hiring and more and more creatives were being shown the door. The competition was intense.

Then out of the blue, a senior Art Director who’d also been made redundant from the same agency (bless your cotton socks Keith) got me in for a chat with the boss at a big PR Agency in Bloomsbury. They’d been invited to pitch for a project, jointly funded by Harrods and the Spanish Government, to promote a month of Spanish fashion and culture at the world-famous Knightsbridge store.

This was my first foray into freelancing and culminated in three weeks in Spain (Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada and Toledo), Art Directing press ads and a TV commercial. I was working with a great photographer and commercials director, was on a fab day rate, being paid to see the world, staying in stupidly expensive hotels and hanging out with beautiful models. Crumbs.

Problem?Schmoblem!2 – Freelance Copywriter, Jonathan Wilcock

Besides the fact that I’d managed to worry myself to the verge of a nervous breakdown after being made redundant, things were pretty good.

Redundancy saga 2
Fast-forward a couple of years, I was working in Soho’s Greek Street with the very lovely John Jessup. An old college friend had introduced us and it was a smashing little agency. I’d enjoyed freelancing, but it was good to be back splashing about in the full-time pool.

Then great news, the agency was going to merge with another bigger, better agency, headed up by some serious creative big-hitters. Exciting times, but they were going to be overstaffed, so it was back into the CD’s office for the “sorry, but…” pep talk.

Now this time I took the news very differently. No blind panic or “nobody loves me” dramas. With a nice little pay-off in my pocket, I picked myself up and waltzed out of the door with every confidence that things would work themselves out.

I disappeared to Kashmir for 6 weeks and forgot all about ad land, came back raring to go and pretty much walked straight into my dream job.

Redundancy Saga 3
A proper, big agency with proper, big accounts. A creative department of 32, two Creative Directors, smack-bang between Soho and Seven Dials… what could possibly go wrong?

Problem?Schmoblem!3 – Freelance Copywriter, Jonathan Wilcock

Ha! About 3 and a half years in, having survived one mini round of redundancies, a new CEO came in and decided to have a spring clean.

I was out on my ear again and fell back into freelancing. This was to be probably the most creatively consistent and stable patch of my career. 11 years, great work, wonderful people and no one could make me redundant. In your face – the man!

Then one thing led to another and I got back on the PAYE rollercoaster – Creative Director then Agency Partner then full time employee – and jumped back off in 2017.

The point is, on the surface and especially when you’re in the thick of it, redundancy is easily mistaken to be a bad thing. With the wrong mind-set, it brings pain, worry, confusion, fear, anger…

Seen from a different vantage point, every redundancy has added depth to my life experience and strength to my character. It’s opened new doors and shown me new possibilities.

It’s only life (or, it’s all good, especially the bad bits)
Nothing goes too smoothly for long. Life is meant to have ups and downs. We just need to work out how to deal with them.

So if you’re facing redundancy or any other life-changing ‘problem’, know that no matter how bad it may seem; it’s exactly what you need to help you move on to the next chapter.

It may be easier said than done and I’m sure that many will disagree, but for me, the best thing to do with a problem is welcome it in, tickle its tummy and make it your friend.

Oi, what’s your problem?
If you’re facing problems of a creative nature, give Uncle Jonathan a shout and he’ll help you you through it with a new blog post (maybe, no guarantees).

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Traffic Island Discs Part2 – Freelance Copywriter Jonathan Wilcock

Grab a hi-vis vest; it’s Traffic Island Discs #2

A couple of weeks ago I sent out a distress signal.

Lost and lonely on a cold, damp traffic island somewhere in Gateshead, I asked some Twitter chums to join me and bring three good tunes, a book and a luxury item with them.

Looks like we’re in for quite an odd party – eclectic playlist to say the least. Grab a hi-vis vest and join us for another spin of Traffic Island Discs.

The chillout tunes
Nica Libres at Dusk – Ben Howard
Time – Hans Zimmer
Inca Roads – Frank Zappa
Song #3 – Stone Sour (NB. André Spiteri chills out like no one else)
More Than This – Roxy Music
The Man With a Child in His Eyes – Kate Bush
Strawberry Letter 23 – Shuggie Otis
Small Hours – John Martyn
Cigarettes and Coffee – Otis Redding
Sorry About Your Irony  – El Ten Eleven
At The Bottom of Everything – Bright Eyes
Going to California – Led Zeppelin
Watch Over You – Alter Bridge

The shake-you-up-and-wake-you-up tunes
Blockrockin’ Beats – Chemical Bros
One-Armed Bandit – Jaga Jazzist
Expansions – Lonnie Liston Smith
A Message to You Rudy – The Specials
Higher State of Consciousness – Josh Wink
Throes of Perdition – Trivium
Ashes to Ashes – David Bowie
Who Knows Where the Time Goes – Fairport Convention
Right Here Right Now – Fatboy Slim
Is It Wicked Not To Care? – Belle & Sebastian
Walking on Sunshine – Katrina & the Waves
Burning Down the House – Talking Heads
Powertrip – Monster Magnet

The nostalgia tunes
Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns ‘N Roses
Just Looking – Stereophonics
Beeswing – Richard Thompson
Simple Feeling – Heartless Bastards
Hotel California – The Eagles
Starlings – Elbow
So What? – Miles Davis
Movin on Up – Primal Scream
Scarborough Fair – Simon & Garfunkel
A Dream of You and Me – Future Island
The Yabba – Battles
Square Hammer – Ghost
I Just Can’t Help Believing – Elvis Presley

The books
Bleak House – Charles Dickens
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Murther and Walking Spirits – Robertson Davis
No Matter What – Debi Gilori
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling
Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace
A Month In The Country – JL Carr
Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man – Nina Lyon
Naive, Super – Erlend Loe
500 Bus Stops – John Shuttleworth
Winter of the World  – Ken Follett
The Third Policeman – Flann O’Brien
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

The luxury items
A flask of tea, a laptop, a towel, coffee, a bottle of Glenrothes 12yr old single malt, a reflective jacket, a typewriter (with paper), a tea caddy, a crate of cider, a big blanket, good health and a driver.

With the driver (a cheat, but thanks anyway Ben McKinney), looks like we’ll all make it off the island alive, but we’ll be very hungry and some of us will have stupid hangovers.

Thanks for your contributions: Ed Prichard, Morton Waters, André Spiteri, Kevin Mills, Ben McKinney, Claire Hawes, 100 Designs, Craig Wright, Ben Connell, David Pennington, Green Fuse Copy, Hollie Sherrington and Annie Writes.

Any other suggestions? Gizza shout.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Traffic Island Discs – Jonathan Wilcock

Traffic Island Discs

You’re hitchhiking to Edinburgh and you’re dropped off somewhere in Gateshead. After a protracted visit to a working men’s club and several yards of subsidised ale, you find yourself wandering and befuddled, but remarkably chipper for someone who’s forgotten what day it is.

Ahead, look, an oasis, a green and pleasant land to rest your weary head for the night. Snuggled up, safe and warm, the only things missing are three righteous tunes, a good book and one luxury item to make your sojourn in this slightly scary urban jungle a little more comfortable.

Welcome my friends to Traffic Island Discs (based on a true story).

As a follow up to ‘The Non-Movie Buff’s Top 10 Movie List‘ and ‘The Official People’s Top ‘You Gotta Watch’ Movie List‘, here’s my homage to one of Radio Four’s oldest and best-loved shows (thanks for the blog post idea @_MortonWaters).

Here are the rules:

Choose three tunes: one to soothe and gently lull you to sleep, one to perk you up/get you busting a few moves in the morning and one that pushes all your nostalgia buttons as you slurp your first cuppa of the day.

Choose one book: something to raise your spirits/help you make it through the night/let you know everything’s gonna be all right.

Choose one luxury item: it won’t get you off your island, but it’ll make the experience more bearable.

So, shooting from the hip, here goes my choice for Traffic Island Discs.

Tune 1 (the chill-out one)
Albatross by Fleetwood Mac
All of a sudden this little island of mine is starting to feel a lot more tropical.

Tune 2 (the bouncy one)
Phat Planet by Leftfield
Cobweb removal services c/o Neil Barnes and Paul Daley.

Tune 3 (the “aaah, that takes me back’ one)
Marcus Garvey (and Garvey’s Ghost – the dub version) by Burning Spear
Winston Rodney’s voice, the bass line, everything really.

The book
‘Sathya Sai Baba, The Embodiment of Love’ by Peggy Mason and Ron Laing
Opened my eyes, made me cry, re-set my compass.

The luxury item
Arm & Hammer sensitive toothpaste. I’ll just use this stick as a toothbrush.

Tuned-up, inspired and with minty-fresh breath, I head off into the great unknown.

Care to join me? What would your Traffic Island Disc essentials be?

Tweet me @Jonathan50Wh4t1 or pop your comments here.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

The People's Movie List – Jonathan Wilcock

The Official People’s Top ‘You Gotta Watch’ Movie List

I wrote a blog post entitled ‘The Non-Movie Buff’s Top 10 Movie List‘.

Then I asked the Twitterati what movies they’d want to see in their own list.

Crumbs, that got tongues wagging.

As a highly intelligent (some might say hugely intellectual) creative person, I am in no way endorsing this list. There’s been no editing or quality control whatsoever. Don’t blame me, the people have spoken. Oh whatever, here it is:

The 39 Steps (1936)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
The Godfather (1972)
Rocky (1976)
Grease (1978)
The Warriors (1979)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Alien (1979)
Escape from New York (1981)
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Blade Runner (1982)
Back to the Future (1985)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Commando (1985)
The Goonies (1985)
Flight of the Navigator (1986)
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Highlander (1986)
Running Man (1987)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Withnail and I (1987)
Predator (1987)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Die Hard (1988)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Total Recall (1990)
Miller’s Crossing (1990)
It (1990)
Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Goodfellas (1990)
Wayne’s World (1992)
Unforgiven (1992)
Speed (1994)
Forest Gump (1994)
Braveheart (1995)
Se7en (1995)
Before Sunrise (1995)
The Rock (1996)
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Con Air (1997)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
A Room For Romeo Brass (1999)
Magnolia (1999)
Fight Club (1999)
Memento (2000)
Heist (2001)
Black Hawk Down (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Finding Nemo (2003)
Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
The Prestige (2006)
Gran Torino (2008)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Inception (2010)
Tyrannosaur (2011)
Prometheus (2012)
Goosebumps (2015)

Stats time: 4 Arnies, 4 Ridleys, 3 Clints, 2 Meadows’, 2 Cages and only 1 de Niro.
18 from the ’90s, 17 from the ’80s, 1 each from the ’30s and ’60s and nothing from the ’40s or ’50s.

Of the 60 films in the list, I’ve seen (or at least remember seeing) 45 of them. Of those, I reckon I’d watch 25 again, any day of the week.

Thanks to everyone who cast their vote. If you didn’t and your favourite film isn’t here, tough – this is now The Official People’s Top ‘You Gotta Watch’ Movie List. End of.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

How to tell a creative copywriter their work sucks – Jonathan Wilcock

How to tell a creative copywriter their work sucks (without getting blood or tears on the carpet)

A creative copywriter is a sensitive soul. It doesn’t take much to shatter his or her funny little world.

The best way to make them cry is to tell them their work is rubbish. And if you want to twist the knife, don’t tell them why.

Besides a woolly creative brief, destructive criticism is a sure fire way to get the worst out of your creative resource.

They’re human beings. More than that, they’re artistic pixie people that need buckets of TLC.

So, how do you tell a creative copywriter their work sucks and leave them feeling inspired?

The first thing is to be honest with yourself. Did the brief have more holes in it than a pound of Swiss cheese in a Wild West shootout?

Basically, if you gave them a bum steer in the first place, it’s time to suck it up and pay for more of their time.

Let’s assume the brief was tighter than a bodybuilder’s showtime pants, but the creative results are disappointing. Where do you go from here?

1) The main point of the brief, ‘the most important thought to leave behind’, isn’t coming across.

Go back over the brief and explain why this is important to you/your audience. Ask them to look at ways of pulling this message out more clearly.

2) The tone of voice is wrong for your audience.

If you have a brand language document that they haven’t been exposed to, then it isn’t their fault if they’ve gone slightly off course. If there was no such document to share, the brief should have at least defined the kind of people you need to talk to.

Go back over this part of the brief and expand if necessary – point them at other brands that are talking in the right kind of way. Explain the sort of newspapers your target might read and the brands they buy. Pick out words the copywriter’s used that particularly jar.

3) The creative execution lacks impact.

It could be the headline, imagery, colours… If you feel that it would get lost amongst the competition, say so. Show examples that have the sort of impact you’re looking for.

4) You just don’t like it.

The onus is on you to work out why you don’t like it. The absolute worst thing you can say to a creative copywriter is, “I don’t know why, but it’s just not doing it for me”. If that’s all you’ve got, don’t be surprised if by draft 7 it’s still not floating your boat.

5) You’ve seen it before.

Is it just like something you’ve seen in your sector, an idea that’s been run by a competitor or is it an obvious rip-off of a famous piece of advertising/design (but not a knowing parody or homage)? Don’t assume your copywriter knows the piece you’re referring to. Dig it out so you can show how similar the thinking is.

This is a particularly interesting area. The amount of times I’ve heard someone say, “It looks like XXX’s logo”, then when said logo’s been found, there’s no resemblance whatsoever. Be sure your memory isn’t playing tricks on you.

6) It has no redeeming features whatsoever.

Tricky one this. Your objective here should be to inspire, not deflate. Unless you know each other well enough to be totally blunt, find something that you can put some kind of positive spin on. It could be as simple as, “I know this is a difficult brief…”, “There’s some really interesting thinking here…” or “Not sure this is up to your usual standard…”.

Don’t be patronising, but find a way of letting them down as gently as possible. Then make your feedback constructive. Leave them with a clear understanding of which direction to head in and feeling fired up, ready to wow you when it comes to Round 2.

Getting it right first time every time is the ideal, but it isn’t a given.

Copywriting is an art, not a science. A tight brief, open dialogue and working with someone you know you can trust will get you 99% of the way, but then it’s down to interpretation, magic and taste – all the flowery stuff that can’t be bottled.

If you want to work with a seasoned creative copywriter, who can help with the briefing process and has a thicker skin than most, please give me a shout – but not aggressively in my face – even I have my limits.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

The non-movie buff's movie top ten – Jonathan Wilcock

The Non-Movie Buff’s Top 10 Movie List

What makes a good movie great?

We all love a good movie, but what makes a good movie a great movie? Without analysing the mechanics of film making, these are the ingredients that keep me on the edge of my seat:

– Hooks me and pulls me in
– I care about the characters
– It entertains me
– It stands the test of time
– I get lost in the story
– I’d happily watch it again and again.

I thought it would be fun to quickly throw together a top ten list of films that tick all of these boxes. How deluded was I!

I reckon I’ve seen somewhere in the region of 7,000 to 10,000 movies. IMDb has 300,000+ features in its database. Rotten Tomatoes has given more than 350 movies a 100% rating and Hollywood alone releases 600-700 new movies a year. This wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.

Undeterred, I started to draw up a very long shortlist. Here’s what I learned along the way.

– My taste isn’t very highbrow, in fact I’m about 30% human, 70% popcorn
– I’m a sucker for sci-fi, comedy and action
– The 60s, 80s and 90s were great decades for film
– Somebody is investing millions in a load of straight to DVD dross
– Criteria 6 rules out M. Night Shyamalan movies
– A top forty is easier to compile than a top ten
– If you love rom coms and musicals, best you stop reading now.

Hold on a minute, what’s this all got to do with copywriting?

Good question.

Copywriting also needs to hook people, get them to care about something, entertain and stand the test of time (If you’re forced to watch a TV commercial 50 times, it ought to be pretty decent).

Great film writing is a masterclass in storytelling, memorable one-liners and dialogue. And when it comes to the posters, that’s where you’ll find some of the best taglines:

IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM – Alien

BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID – The Fly

THE FIRST CASUALTY OF WAR IS INNOCENCE – Platoon

Now we’ve cleared that up, it’s on with the show.

The BlancaKane Cuckoo Father – Jonathan Wilcock

Every movie top 10 list seems to include at least one of these usual suspects (but not The Usual Suspects): The Godfather, Casablanca, Citizen Kane or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. All superb films no doubt, but none of them made it onto my shortlist.

As my wife might say, “You always have to be different don’t you”.

I was determined not to be swayed by the opinions of the great and the good. Using my own Gogglebox-ometer, I plundered my DVD collection and memory bank, and soldiered on.

It’s a bit of a cheat, but after a lot of deliberation, here are four top tens, all cracking movies (in this reviewer’s opinion) and all worthy of a couple of hours of your life. Unleash the geek:

The ‘almost made it into the top 30’ top 10:

• Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
• Blade Runner (1982)
• Die Hard (1988)
• Home Alone (1990)
• There’s Something About Mary (1998)
• The Truman Show (1998)
• The Bourne Identity (2002)
• Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
• Inception (2010)
• Avengers Infinity War (2018)

The ‘almost made it into the top 20’ top 10:

• The Maltese Falcon (1941)
• It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
• Scrooge (1951)
• Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953)
• The Magnificent Seven (1960)
• Planet of the Apes (1968)
• Jaws (1975)
• Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
• Predator (1987)
• Delicatessen (1991)

The ‘almost made it into the top 10’ top 10:

• The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
• The Servant (1963)
• Carry On Screaming (1966)
• Enter the Dragon (1973)
• Raising Arizona (1987)
• Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
• The Big Lebowski (1998)
• Van Helsing (2004)
• The Incredibles (2004)
• The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Top 10 movies of all time – Jonathan Wilcock

So here it is: the ‘non-movie buff’s top 10 movies of all time’ top 10 list (of all time):

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
Rear Window (1954)
Goldfinger (1964)
Easy Rider (1969)
Gremlins (1984)
Aliens (1986)
Big (1988)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Toy Story (1995)
The Matrix (1999)

And just in case you’re screaming at your screen, here are the others that almost made it:

Un Chien Andalou (1928)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Key Largo (1948)
Passport to Pimlico (1949)
The Lady Killers (1955)
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Some Like it Hot (1959)
The Great Escape (1963)
Repulsion (1965)
The Party (1968)
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Gandhi (1982)
John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)
Back to the Future (1985)
Wings of Desire (1987)
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
Wild at Heart (1990)
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Trainspotting (1996)
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Snatch (2000)
Be Cool (2005)
Ip Man (2008)

Question is, which movies do you think should be in the top 10 and which ones ought to be thrown into the alley behind the Scala?

Now back to that choc ice.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

What is copywriting? Jonathan Wilcock – Freelance Copywriter

What is copywriting? Art or Science?

What is copywriting?

It’s not journalism, it’s not writing novels and it’s not writing just for the fun of it. So, what is copywriting?

Copywriting, in simple terms, is the use of words to persuade someone to do something.

This could be to make a donation, click on a link, go out and buy a new pair of pants, write to their MP, sign up to a newsletter, reassess their opinion of a brand or hit the share button.

Art or science?

Many will tell you that copywriting is a science*, but in fact it’s an art†.

My job as a copywriter is, more often than not, to capture the attention of a marketing-saturated, ad-frazzled, disinterested punter. Once I’ve got them reading, I then need to persuade them that the widget I’m selling is the absolute best widget in the entire widgety universe.

This takes wit, guile and intuition. It’s an art form.

A love of words, the ability to spell and lots of writing experience are all handy, but without an intuitive creative spark; a scientific, data-driven approach to copywriting won’t save anyone.

Where does this artistry come from?

In the last 18 months, the stuff I’ve written has been ridiculously diverse:

• On-pack copy for a vodka brand
• Press ads for a law firm
• Social media posts for a genealogy website
• Web copy for a children’s nursery
• Video scripts for a car manufacturer
• Sales aids for teeth aligners…

I don’t drink vodka, I don’t hang out with lawyers and I’ve never traced my family tree.

I don’t own a toddler, I don’t run a 4×4 and I’m perfectly happy with my dodgy teeth.

So how am I qualified to write persuasive copy for any of these clients?

Beyond having a great brief and lots of background information, if I relied on the ‘science’ of copywriting, I’d probably still be at “Err…”.

The art is in getting my head around what the client needs to say and then slipping my feet into the moccasins/flip-flops/toe tectors/louboutins/high tops/brogues of the target audience, so that I pull all the right strings.

For this, empathy is the copywriter’s best friend.

Empathy is a wonderful human quality nurtured through the richness of life experience. So as copywriters, we’re fortunate in the respect that the more we do and the longer we live, the better we get at the job.

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”
Dale Carnegie

Do you have to be born with it?

To a certain extent, yes. Like all art forms, there are plenty of chancers who get by with a lucky break or two, but then there are the maestros. Those that are born with an abundance of empathy and creative ingenuity.

To anyone who’s into copywriting, it will be no surprise to hear that I place David Abbott at the very top of the maestro category.

Mr. Abbott had a God-given gift for advertising copy. No doubt he worked hard at it, but without the creative seed that he was born with, I doubt he could have written this, one of his most famous ads, for Chivas Regal.

What Is Copywriting? The blog of Jonathan Wilcock – David Abbott

David Abbott makes it seem completely effortless. It feels more like a heart pouring out its contents than a copywriter selling booze.

Try doing that armed only with a spreadsheet of consumer insight data and a laptop.

“Use your life to animate your copy. If something moves you, chances are, it will touch someone else too.”
David Abbott

Can it be learned?

By studying those that have the gift and then writing, writing, writing; again, yes.

If you have a love for it and are willing to put the effort in, there is no doubt you can get better at it. Put it this way, I am definitely a better copywriter now than I was a year ago. And unless I’m mistaken, I’ll be a better copywriter this time next year.

Can anyone do it?

Yes, absolutely.

However, the real question should be, can anyone do it really well? And the answer to that is most definitely, and fortunately for the likes of me, “NO NO NO NO NO”.

“I’ve learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one.”
Leo Burnett

So, to recap, what is copywriting again?

It’s the ability to empathise, to intrigue and persuade. It just so happens that the tools we use to do this are words.

For more on the art of copywriting, have a look at:

Copywriting for the worst client in the world

The Seven Deadly Skills of a Great Copywriter

* OK, there is a bit of science to it, but mostly that’s in getting the brief right.

† Let’s get this straight. The end result isn’t art. Advertising, commercial websites, brochures and the like can’t be compared to a Picasso or a Rembrandt. However, there is an art to the copywriting process.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please give it a share.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Copywriting: worst client in the world – Jonathan Wilcock

Copywriting for the worst client in the world

Surgeons don’t perform their own heart bypasses and dentists don’t drill their own teeth. But, when it comes to copywriting, surely writing your own ad campaign can’t be that painful. Can it?

Well they reckon if you can’t sell yourself, you can’t sell anything. So I’ve been putting the theory to the test.

First things first, what’s the brief?

Objective. Show off my creative skills to attract new customers.
Target Audience. Creative Directors / Recruiters / Marketing Directors / Resource Directors.
What do I want them to think? “Ooh he’s good at copywriting”.
What do I want them to feel? “He’d solve all our creative problems”.
What do I want them to do? Have a rummage around my website / give me a project.
*What’s the USP? Ideas, Copywriting and Art Direction all in one neat package.
Tone of voice. Fun, but intelligent (just like me).
Deadline. When I can fit it in to be honest.
Budget. Ha!

*Even though I have years of experience copywriting and art directing, the concept of a hybrid creative polarises opinions. For some it’s a huge asset, others feel more comfortable with a single-minded proposition. So with my AD skills, I usually show rather than tell.

On with the creative bit

The mission began some months ago and after several false starts I thought I’d cracked it.

I put together a campaign under the general banner of: A different way of looking at the world.

Witty, clever, a bit different; it used the line ‘Alternative Thinking’ as the pay-off and all was well with the world.

Copywriting: worst client in the world – freckles

Copywriting: worst client in the world – bottle it

Copywriting: worst client in the world – bobble hat

Then self-doubt kicked in

Was it all a bit up itself? Would anyone actually get it?

I sent it to a few agency folk, including fellow Copywriters, to get their take on it, and 9 out of 10 really liked it. Then the MD of a marketing agency told me it went way over his head.

“What are you trying to tell me Jonathan?”

“Well”, I said, “I’m not your average wordsmith, I provide alternative thinking”.

“Yeah, but I don’t want alternative thinking, I want a copywriter”.

Damn, was this alternative thinking line a complete red herring?

I eventually convinced myself it still worked, so I plugged the campaign on my website and in social media. And it got some positive responses, even a couple of actual new clients.

Time isn’t always a great healer

A couple of months later, I was having serious second thoughts. I still liked the concept of alternative thinking, but I’d fallen out of love with the execution.

So, with the same brief in mind, I set about coming up with what I now think of as my Different way of looking at a different way of looking at the world campaign:

Copywriting: worst client in the world – polaroid

Copywriting: worst client in the world – pony

Copywriting: worst client in the world – cherries

What did I do with this campaign? Not a lot.

I liked it, but I had a strong hunch that it was marketing to an audience of one – me.

Perhaps I really wasn’t the right man for the job after all.

The worst client in the world

If the worst client in the world is an indecisive ditherer who keeps changing the brief, then guilty as charged.

It’s not that I’m not capable. It was just the ‘judging whether it’s terrible or not’ bit that was tripping me up.

So, I put it in the drawer marked ‘ideas that may be pretty good, but then again am I deluded?’, assuming that was that. Until a couple of weeks ago, I saw a great blog post from Dave Dye all about the lost art of the agency ‘house ad’.

In the post, Dave ponders why agencies don’t seem to do their own ads anymore.

“It could be that it’s just too hard to be the agency AND the client.”

But then he goes on to show dozens of fantastic examples, mostly from the 70s through to the 90s.

Absolute belters from the likes of AMV, DDB, GGT, BBH, O&M… all the best initials.

So, re-invigorated, I looked at the stuff I’d done previously and the penny dropped. OK, the ideas had merit, but they just weren’t anywhere near copywriter-y enough.

It was time to get back to basics. None of this arty stuff.

I needed something that was simple, bold, got its point across quickly, had ‘legs’ and would raise a little smile with the audience I was after.

And I think I’ve cracked it.

Or have I?

Am I just too close to it all?

Damn you, self-doubt.

Now I understand why my clients don’t do their own copywriting.

Is it on brief, does it tickle all the right bits? Tell you what, you be the judge.

Copywriting: worst client in the world – than what

Copywriting: worst client in the world – nipple

Copywriting: worst client in the world – boy

Copywriting: worst client in the world – words

Copywriting: worst client in the world – details

I may well look back at this post in a few months and want to rip it up and start again, but there are projects to be won, comms to be written and bills to be paid.

If you’ve got this far, here’s the hard sell

(Read this bit like Cillit Bang Barry):

Are you pushing words around on a page in a bit of a daze?

Have you got a great brief, but no idea how to turn it into something that excites your audience?

Then you need new formula Freelance Copywriter – Jonathan Wilcock, with built in alternative thinking for those stubborn briefs that ordinary copywriters just can’t crack.

(Read this bit at double speed in a slightly mumbled way):

Alternative Thinking is not a registered trademark of Jonathan Wilcock, but he’d rather you didn’t bandy it about as if it was yours. If you find Alternative Thinking as a concept a bit confusing and simply need a Copywriter, pretend you never heard it. Terms and conditions apply.

Back to normal, internal voiceover style

Campaign ideas, long or short copy, art direction or creative direction; if you need a creative (and objective) pair of eyes on your advertising and marketing comms, give me a shout.

Writing my own ads may be a kerfuffle, but when I’m on other people’s briefs, I make factory-fresh razors look like butter knives. Here are a few testimonials to prove it.

Back to the blog

Work examples

And if you’re up for it, any (constructive) opinions on these campaign ideas will be gratefully received.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk

Why you should never compromise on creativity

Guest post by Sophie Wilson, CEO and Founder, Tuesday Media

Every day, an overwhelming number of new campaigns are launched. They range from advertising to email marketing to PR; from big to small, flippant to serious, conscience raising to product touting. As a career creative and now CEO of communications agency Tuesday Media, I’ll admit to having developed a debilitating campaign habit. I devour new campaigns with a passion, examining them to see what the special ingredient is that makes some shake things up, others push a brand into the spotlight, and a select few even change the world. The answer is simple. Successful campaigns all have creativity at their core.

As Jonathan has already discussed on this blog, creative ideas aren’t as much new in themselves, as a combination of things that already existed. This is also true of campaigns; the issues, products and ideas that they deal with aren’t new, but the fusion of subject and approach is what makes creative sparks fly.

With all this in mind, I’ve drawn together a list of thoughts, or a stream of consciousness if you will, on the common features of the most brilliant creative campaigns.

1. Creative campaigns don’t just rehash what others have done
How many times have you seen an iteration of ‘Keep Calm and…’? Some concepts may have been novel to begin with, but they have since been flogged more times than the proverbial horse.

I often encounter brands that want to launch campaigns based on things that have worked for others. But the clue is in the past tense – they’ve already been done. On these occasions, we have to be clear in our convictions and challenge potential clients – at the risk of losing business – to be bold and to place genuine creative thinking at the centre of what they are doing.

2. Creative campaigns engage with the thing that makes a brand special
If a brand has nothing special about it, it won’t last long. Businesses that stand the test of time do so because they have a unique reason for being. Even so, there are thousands of campaigns that fail to interact with their organisation’s special quality. The best campaigns I have seen use the brand’s essence as a springboard for creativity – creating campaigns that aren’t just interesting but embrace their raison d’être.

3. Creative campaigns are bold
On occasion, a campaign may need to ruffle feathers. A strong creative campaign will be bold, clear and willing to challenge, provoke or even upset some people to drive its point home. A good example of this is Blood Normal, BodyForm’s recent campaign to normalise periods. This has shocked, appalled and delighted in almost equal measure – and most importantly, has sparked endless debate and set the wheels of change in motion.

4. Creative campaigns feel fresh – even when they’re dealing with tired material
A mark of excellent creative implementation is when ideas that aren’t new are presented in a way that feels innovative and fresh. Take Trash Isles, the campaign led by Plastic Oceans Foundation and LADbible, as an example. The looming catastrophe posed by the mass of plastic in the ocean is not a new discovery – plenty of people are talking about it. But by flipping the issue on its head and running a campaign that aims to gain nation status for the floating island, the team have got the attention of members of the UN Council and the buy-in of the public.

5. Creative campaigns are on board with changing times
It may have taken a while, but the creative world is moving away from boozy client lunches and the ‘be here to be seen’ office culture, towards digital nomadism and atypical structures that allow the expression of talent at work. In short, traditional PR and marketing office culture is dying, and with it, is withering the traditional model of campaign. Tired-out ideas that focus more on the tools than the reason for using them are doomed to failure. The most brilliant creative campaigns I have seen take a step back from the way things have always been done and embrace new technologies, new practices and new attitudes.

Even with all this in mind, there is no magic formula for creativity. Coming up with a successful campaign takes time, effort, engaging in the creative process and a stack of false starts. But if you want to generate something that stands out from the crowd and tells your story in the most compelling way possible, it has to be driven by an idea. And that’s ultimately what you buy when you buy an agency – creative thinking from creative minds.

Sophie Wilson is CEO and Founder at Tuesday Media

Would you like to submit a guest post?

If your post is about advertising, design, marketing or related crafts, and is uniquely yours, drop me a line at jonathan@sowhatif.co.uk