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Bratwurst_Lamazing – Jonathan Wilcock Freelance Copywriter

From German sausages to made up words, a Freelance Copywriter never stops learning.

One of the best things about being a Freelance Copywriter is the variety.

New clients and new projects add more juice to the old creative brain sponge.

Not least of all, I’m constantly discovering new words and word combinations.

Here are a few, that before 2018, I’m sure I’d never had the occasion to use in copy, some I hadn’t heard of and one of them I think I may have invented.

KAMALARI
This word came up when working with the international development charity, Nepal Youth Foundation.

‘For generations, the Tharu community of Western Nepal has adopted a practice known as Kamalari, whereby girls as young as six years old are bonded into domestic slavery.’

But it’s not all gloom and doom, because…

KATHAA
‘Kathaa, ‘story’ in Nepalese, is a contemporary, ethical fashion brand owned and operated by NYF in the UK. Everything in the Kathaa range is made by freed Kamalaris and our very first collection is a range of stunning, waterproof down jackets.’

VIVE LA DIFFERENCE
‘Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further. If you’re looking for just another firm of Estate Agents, you’re going to be disappointed.’

I knew my grade ‘D’ in GCSE French would come in handy one day. Never thought it would be for a posh West End estate agent though.

LAMAZING
Anyone who played Christmas copy bingo last year would have got extra points for spotting this in my copywriting for Church Urban Fund:

‘So, please join with thousands of others this Christmas and raise your voices with us to do something fa la la la la la la lamazing.’

If you really want to push the boat out with new words, healthcare copywriting takes some beating:

DYSPHAGIA
‘We all know that water is essential for life, unfortunately, not everyone finds it easy to drink enough. If you have been diagnosed as having dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), you could be at risk of dehydration.’

I got to write ‘dysphagia’ dozens of times – in leaflets, training aids, ads, posters video script… It’s a funny old world being a Freelance Copywriter.

PHILANTHROPIST, TRAILBLAZER, RULE BREAKER, HERO
No, I wasn’t writing about myself, this was part of a 100 years Remembrance Day social media campaign for genealogy website, findmypast.com

BRATWURST
How much German do I know? Not a sausage. That’s why working for the German Tourist Office was such fun. To put it into context:

‘IT’S NOT ALL BEER AND BRATWURST
How about a slice of Flammkuchen, some Königsberger Klopse or a Prinzregententorte? If you think that’s a bit of a mouthful, just wait ‘til you taste them.’

Being a Freelance Copywriter isn’t always about using obscure words, but with so many available, it’d be a shame not to squeeze the odd ‘Bratwurst’ in now and again.

Goodness knows what 2019 will have in store; I’ve already managed ‘Kippers and custard’ for a VW script.

For more wordy fun and frolics, have a dip here:

How to tell a copywriter their work sucks
The Seven Deadly Skills of Copywriting
Copywriting for the worst client in the world

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

Jonathan Wilcock Freelance Copywriter – Thick Skin, Self-belief

A copywriter needs thick skin and self-belief

Are you setting sail as a Copywriter / Graphic Designer / Art Director / Illustrator?

Or do you already have years under your belt, furrows on your forehead and awards on the shelf?

Whatever your creative bent and whatever stage you’re at in your career:

First rule: get your head down and work hard.
Second Rule: keep your head down and work harder.
Third rule: get tooled up.

Besides developing your craft, there are two weapons you’ll need, and without them you probably won’t survive life on the creative hard shoulder, never mind the fast lane.

You’re gonna need a thick skin
People are going to slag your work off.

There’s a battalion of grammar bullies out there looking for the one typo in the middle of your 1,500-word blog post. There are a million creative wannabes who only get out of bed to stick your lovingly crafted bits and bobs through the Twitter mill, telling the world they could have done better.

Being in a creative industry leaves you vulnerable to the lazily tossed rotten cabbages of armchair critics. But that’s a good thing. It toughens you up.

It’s never too early to take a beating
Turn the clocks back 30 something years to my first year of college, studying Graphic Design. This was a period of huge change for me. The year before, I’d been a schoolboy flailing around trying to pass GCSEs. Now I was expected to set my own timetables, make choices and work things out for myself.

This was a fab course with great lecturers and a fun bunch of misfit classmates. We threw paint around, watched movies and learned about colour theory, typography and art. But besides all the arty-farty-designery good times, there were two particular not-so-pleasant incidents that stick in my mind.

The mermaid with 10 tits
We’d been set a project to do a self-portrait as we saw ourselves.

I was a long-haired hippy. Kaftans, flares, afghan waistcoats… the whole unwashed freaky kit and caboodle. So I drew myself as a flower. Yes, you read correctly, a flower. My head was the stigma, my body the stem and petals grew out from where my neck joined my shoulders. I thought it was cool.

We stuck our drawings up for the group crit and when it came to mine, the tutor vomited out the immortal words:

“It looks like a mermaid with 10 tits”.

Everyone laughed while I died a little inside. This hippy was going to have to grow something else other than tits.

The second episode, another group crit, was following a life drawing session.

We stuck our work all over the walls. Rolling hills of flesh in charcoal, pastels and paint. The lecturer slowly worked her way around the collected masterpieces pulling out all the positives. “Love the use of light and shade”, “Great composition”, “The head is out of proportion, but it just works”…

We were all bathing in the glory of our collective genius; then she ripped into us.

“Look at you all nodding your ****ing heads like ****ing nodding dogs. It’s all a load of ***t. Don’t just agree with everything I say like a bunch of brainless ****ers. Now take this ***p off my walls and ***k off home”.

That told us, but most importantly it got our attention. And all these years later I realise what a huge favour her beasting had done us. It didn’t really matter how good or bad the work was, what mattered was that we learned how to take negative feedback and developed our own opinions.

Jonathan Wilcock Freelance Copywriter – Thick Skin, Self-belief Rocky-Ripped

Once you’re Rocky-ripped, all you need is self-belief
From personal experience, I’ve found that self-belief is a very fragile thing. Unlike a thick skin, which once developed is yours for life; self-belief can do a runner as soon as you turn your back on it.

While the negative opinions of others can hurt, there’s nothing more debilitating than you telling yourself how rubbish you are.

Having been a Copywriter since the mid ’80s, you’d think that self-belief would be a given by now.

Halfway through my career I spent a couple of years as a Creative Director in someone else’s agency, then several running my own (concentrating on everything other than being a Copywriter 75% of the time). But surely, going fulltime again as a freelance copywriter would be like stepping back into a familiar and comforting warm pool of rose-scented water.

Not one bit. I felt exposed, underqualified and smeared in rancid self-doubt jam from the sticky fingers of the imposter syndrome mind monster.

A couple of years freelancing later, dozens of very happy clients and a raft of new work, I’m well and truly back in the saddle of the self-belief pony.

Now that I’m out of the quagmire of non-worthiness, it’s weird to think that I was ever less than head-swellingly sure of myself. But when you’re up to your chinny-chin-chin in the muck of self-doubt you feel like everyone else is brilliantly creative and you’re a big fat dud.

It happens to the best of us
Yesterday I had a chat with an old friend of mine, a Graphic Designer (turned Creative Director, turned Managing Director, turned out-on-his-ear redundancy casualty).

This guy is very talented. Not only is he a very decent designer, he has the gift of the gab. He can hold the attention of a room. People like him; they hang on his every word, they believe in him; he has gravitas. Besides that, he’s just a bloody nice geezer. In short, anyone who snaps him up now would be getting a real gem on their team.

So with all this going for him, I was gobsmacked to hear him say that he reckoned he couldn’t cut it as a Creative Director anymore. To put this into perspective, he’s been CD at two agencies for a combined twenty odd years. Since hanging up his CD hat, he’s been MD of a high profile design agency for a mere six years, yet now he’s convinced he wouldn’t cut the mustard in his old Creative Director role.

Nonsense. The only thing stopping him is self-belief and I told him as much.

Knowing him, I’m sure the next time we meet up, he’ll be telling me the same thing as he breaks-in his £500 brogues, pacing the reclaimed oak floorboards of his Shoreditch Creative Director’s office. But that’s him, not everyone will find it so easy to find their lost confidence.

If your self-belief has taken a kicking, now what?
Let’s assume you already have skin that makes a rhino’s look like wet rice paper. If self-doubt has come knocking, what can you do to get on top again?

1) Work your socks off
You’ve seen your portfolio so much, even if it’s full of D&AD winners, it probably feels as stale as a budget airline donut. Do some new stuff to get excited about, even if it means making up your own creative briefs.

2) Collaborate
Without the wind of fresh input, self-doubt grows like mould . Get yourself out there and work with people you know and respect. If they’re not up for it, get in touch with new creative buddies via LinkedIn or platforms like singlecreatives.com The Dots or Freelance Heroes. Headhunters can also be a great source of potential creative partners to buddy up with.

3) Expose yourself
Old Creative Directors, creative colleagues from previous agencies, college mates… get in touch with anyone who knows your business. Get them to look at your portfolio, especially new stuff that you’re not sure about. They’ll sort the wheat from the chaff more easily than you can. However, ultimately, you have to be comfortable with your own work; you’ll be the one defending it when the time comes.

4) Start a blog
Get all your self-doubting stupid ideas down. Write about what you know and what you’re learning as you make up new stuff. Publish it and get feedback. If it’s rubbish you can always unpublish it, but it’s good to get whatever self-doubts are holding you back, out of your head. Committing them to the public domain tends to pull your thinking into focus.

5) Do something new
Only using one muscle makes you lopsided. If you’re a Digital Illustrator, do a series of large-scale abstract pieces with real paint and canvas. If you’re a Graphic Designer, sign up for a life drawing class. If you’re a Copywriter, write a short story or two.

6) Spend time with the masters
Who inspired you in the first place? Get your old Graphis Annuals, Creative Reviews and Lürzer’s Archives out. Surround yourself with work that gets you excited.

7) Spread the love
Once you’ve found the old you, do your little bit to help others on their way. Take the time to give honest, constructive criticism to newbies and oldies alike. Just one word of encouragement can make all the difference.

Thick-skinned and pumped up; now my friend, it’s time to don your creative cape and fly. Have fun.

If you’re a freelance copywriter (thick-skinned or otherwise), you’ll also find these 40 survival tips handy.

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

Copywriting – getting the balance right between simplicity and creativity – Leave a Gap – Jonathan Wilcock

Why you need to leave a g p in your copywriting

When it comes to copywriting, ‘Keep it simple’ is brilliant advice.

It’s bonkers how much information our poor little brains are expected to process. I’ve read that we’re exposed to anywhere between 4,000 and 10,00 marketing messages every day.

I counted at least 5 this morning, but then I got distracted. All I know is, when we’re told to keep our copywriting simple, it makes a lot of sense.

Edit those headlines down.
Only sell one thing at a time.
Make it easy to understand what you’re getting at.

All sage advice from the University of Write Not Wrong.

Simple is good, but…

Simple is a good start, but simplicity alone won’t always give you the cut-through you’re after.

You also need to be provocative, witty, different…

Simplicity is an elusive enough copywriting goal for most people, but the creative bit seems to be out of reach for the majority – thank goodness.

However, if you’re up for the challenge, there is one trick that’s great for transforming simple into something that people actually want to engage with.

I’m calling it ‘copywriting with a gap’ or to give it its official title, opywriting©.

Can you tell what it is yet?

People love to play. We love puzzles and a great example is the good old dot-to-dot.

Copywriting – getting the balance right between simplicity and creativity – Jonathan Wilcock

Giving your audience the space to get involved is a smart way to draw them in, but it’s a balancing act.

The two images above are a perfect demonstration of the ‘can’t be arsed because it’s too simple’ and the ‘can’t be arsed because it’s too complicated’.

The great thing about two extremes, is they’re all the proof you need that somewhere there’s a happy mid-point – the ‘ooh that looks like fun, I’m in’ sweet spot.

Yes, people are busy, so we need to get to the point, but there’s a lot to be said for leaving gaps so that they can join the dots.

We should never underestimate the intelligence of our audience

People love to be entertained, but they also love to be part of the entertainment. If they didn’t, there’d be no such thing as Karaoke.

Was it Confucius or Mr. Spock who said:

Tell me, I will forget
Show me, I will remember
Involve me, I will understand.

Whoever it was, I agree.

Having worked with kids in classrooms and summer camps, I’ve seen it a thousand times. Making stuff simple is great, but if they’re not part of the learning experience, nothing sinks in.

It’s the same with marketing and corporate comms. If we’re not careful, keeping everything simple leaves no room for people to have fun.

And that’s where the best copywriting gets it just right.

Genius copywriters keep it simple, but don’t lay everything out on a plate. There’s something in their writing that’s unexpected or curious. It gives the person reading it the reward of cracking the code.

A word of warning. If it’s worth a double take it’s good, but if it leaves them scratching their heads for too long, you’ve lost. Like I said, it’s a balancing act.

Two things to remember

1) Generally speaking, people don’t give a sticky fig about your ad / brochure / Instagram post… Your brand is just a means to an end.

2) Girls (and boys) just want to have fun.

If your copywriting can cater to these two basic principals, you’re more than halfway there.

You need to be able to answer ‘yes’ to these questions to be sure of any level of success:

– Is it simple?
– Is it entertaining, quirky, intriguing and/or impactful?
– Does it convey the message you’re after?
– Does it stop short of being self-indulgent?

And ‘no’ to these if you’re going to be belt, braces and safety pin certain-sure:

– Are you aiming too intellectually high or low for your audience?
– Could it be mistaken for a message from a competing brand?
– Could it be expressed even more simply with no loss of impact?
– Does it leave you thinking “so what”?

Posters are the ideal space for immediacy, with that all important splash of opywriting©. At least they ought to be.

Here’s a bunch of stonkers that cut to the chase, yet still give the viewer the chance to go on a little journey to the land of ‘Oh Yeah, I Get It’.

Nike Poster – Creative copywriting – Jonathan Wilcock

John Lewis Poster – Creative copywriting – Jonathan Wilcock

The Tube and Public Health Posters – Creative copywriting – Jonathan Wilcock

The public health ‘fly’ poster was pinned up in Doctor’s waiting rooms, hence the extra linger time. But lengthy headline aside, in essence it’s still incredibly simple. And the gap? No picture of a fly, no mention of diseases. It gives you just enough mental white space to do a bit of colouring in yourself.

Sorry to be predictable, but no post on opywriting© could ignore this little beauty. A fab five-word headline and a four-word punchline with that magic little gap in between.

Economist Poster – Creative copywriting – Jonathan Wilcock

The golden rule – simple is good, but boring is bad.

So next time you’ve stripped your copy back to the bare essentials, before you pat yourself on the back for its brevity, ask if there’s something else you could do to give the reader a bit of play time. Where’s the gap?

You can find more on the art of copywriting right here.

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

30 Stupid Faces PagePic – Jonathan Wilcock

How do you doodle-do?

I got my rugged good looks from my Dad and my doodling skills from my Mum.

Being this handsome is a curse, but doodling… ah doodling.

There’s something about a bit of noodle-doodling that soothes my soul. And a stroll through my doodle-doings is just as rewarding.

I love flicking through old note books and looking at the contents of my subconscious mind scribbled in the margins. 9 times out of 10 it’s a face. They’re usually bizarre or grotesque (according to some psychologosts this means I am mistrustful and needy), but for some reason, the human face seems to be a recurring theme.

30 Stupid Faces
Last month, I set myself a little Twitter challenge: to draw and post a 30-second ‘stupid face’ every day for 30 days. The rules were simple, 30 seconds, just let the hand do the work with no thinking or planning, and no editing. Doodling with a direction, if you will.

Some came out pretty well in my humble-ish opinion.

I don’t think I’ll win many awards or commissions, but here’s November’s rogues gallery for your amusement.

30 Stupid Faces – Jonathan Wilcock

Doodling is fun, but there’s more to it than I’d imagined.

On the Epilepsy Action blog, handwriting analyst, Ruth Rostron says:
‘Doodling helps relieve boredom and frustration and the urge to doodle gets stronger as stress levels rise. Doodling is like a safety valve that allows pressure to be dispelled in a playful and creative way.’

On the Harvard Health Publishing blog, Dr. Srini Pillay says:
‘Doodling keeps you from falling asleep, or simply staring blankly when your brain has already turned off. The permission to “free-draw” keeps your brain online just a little while longer.’

And going even further, in her 2011 Ted talk, doodling evangelist, Sunni Brown says:
‘People who doodle when they’re exposed to verbal information retain more of that information than their non-doodling counterparts… it has a profound effect on creative problem-solving and deep information processing.’

So, if you want to boost your creativity and brain power, switch off your devices, pick up a pen and get a-doodling.

But, quickly before you hit the off button, here’s one last tour around my doodle-addled bonce with 6 more stupid faces (as ever, I over-delivered on the brief).

30StupidFaces Extra 2 – Jonathan Wilcock

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

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