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Copywriters on the rack #16: Emily Penny

Hello and welcome to Copywriters on the Rack. Please ignore the smell of fear, the cleaners didn’t show up this week. So…

Who are you and what do you do to pay the bills?

I’m Emily Penny. I do brand strategy, naming and copywriting for b2b, creative and nonprofit brands. And love it.

What was your career path to get to where you are now?

A long time ago, back in the last millennium, my first love was fine art. And I actually just started making paintings again last year, but the intervening years have been filled with other creative stuff.

After art college, I fell into a job producing graphics for museums, mainly because I knew how to use Photoshop 1.0. I soon discovered I was better at managing design than doing design, so the next job was in client services.

After working in a few branding agencies I became obsessed with this ‘brand strategy’ thing. I topped up my education with an MA in marketing and worked as a strategist in a couple more London agencies until I had my two children, moved down to the South coast, and set up my own consultancy.

Becolourful was born in 2013.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Being paid to be creative is too good to be true.

What’s the worst?

Pitching for work is the pits. I avoid it if I can.

How do you fill the gaps when you’re not doing the day job?

When I’m not doing positioning and propositions, I’m doing poetry and pilates.

Hmmm, the four Ps. Now we’ve got the formalities out of the way, let’s try four more; Peril, Poison, Panic and a bit of Puerility:

What was your nickname at school?

I was a proper girly swot and along with my twin sister, we got 22 grade A GCSEs between us, which made us minor celebrity freaks for a couple of weeks locally. I don’t know what they called me but it probably wasn’t something I’d want to repeat.

Oh, I could hazard a guess. What’s the stupidest thing you did as a teenager?

My teenage years were spent in the University city of Cambridge and outside of school, it was a free-range kind of an adolescence. In the summer when the students had gone home, we would break into the grounds of the colleges through certain scalable gates, and explore. One evening, after one or two ciders, we ended up on the roof of Kings College, gazing at the stars and smoking cigarettes among the huge gothic chimney pots.

What makes your toes curl?

Strawberry ice-cream. Yuk.

What makes you go mmmmm…?

My singing lessons.

Who would win in a fight, a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist?

I think the rocket scientist might just have the edge in powerful weaponry.

Write me three straplines for:

1) Vegan haggis
Not So Offal

2) The new McQuadruple-fatboy meal deal
*Actual meal will not resemble picture

3) Cage fighting for the over 80s
What are your plans after the jab?

What would you like to come back as, if there’s a next time?

It sits on the sofa for hours. It knows its own mind. It’s occasionally petted.
Yes, being a cat would work out fine.

Draw me a picture of a cockroach on the verge of having a great idea (yes I know you’re a writer, but do it anyway).

Copywriting is like gutting fish, discuss.

Copywriting really is like gutting a fish now you mention it. Making cuts in the right places. Getting rid of the rubbish. Hoping it isn’t going to stink in the morning.

What is love?

Love is the glue that holds this mess together, isn’t it?

Don’t ask me, I’m the one who makes the mess. Pick a random pic from your camera roll and tell us about it.

This is an origami fox my son made during lockdown. It’s small but full of hope. Like him.

Write me a very short story featuring: Colin The Creepy Clown, Nigella Lawson and a nasty rash

Nigella was known for her Halloween parties and this year would be no different. She’d spent all afternoon creating her best outfit yet, along with elaborate makeup. Framed by her dark locks, her bright green face made her a spooktastically sexy witch. Yes, the face-paint smarted and itched a little, but it would be worth it.

Two hours in and the house was filled with celebrity friends in all manner of outfits. Colin Firth came as creepy clown and was looking for the host. Her dark tresses were easy to spot. She was at the far end of the kitchen tending to a steaming pot on the stove.

She didn’t hear him call her name, so he tapped her on the shoulder, smiling a wide clown smile. As Nigella turned, his arched eyebrows rose higher still and his smile dropped. Her streaky green face was punctuated with weeping boils; this time, her attempt at coquettish wasn’t going to work. It really was a nasty rash.

What’s the last thing that made you laugh?

These questions.

What’s the last thing that made you cry?

These questions.

Excellent! Now, write me dictionary definition entries for ‘Wilcock’s Lexicofantabulous Compendium of Oddities and Soddities’:

1) Brognozulism
A rare cheese

2) Rimboles
A percussive instrument

3) Plorfulescent
All the colours

Make up your own question and tell me whatever you want to get off your chest.

When I start projects, I ask my clients ‘what gets you out of bed in the morning?’, so I am going to ask that of myself.

Actually, I find it really difficult to get out of bed in the morning. I’m not really a morning person, and I’m definitely not an evening person, I think I’m at my best around lunchtime. Come to think of it, food is something I get excited by, so it’s probably breakfast that gets me out of bed. But that’s the kind of answer I hate my clients giving. My point is, what’s the point of it all?

For me, it’s projects. Making something where there was nothing. Whether that’s making a meal, growing plants, writing poetry or working with clients, I love creating. That is the point.

Give me three reasons why I should let you go.

1) This is fun, I could go on a lot longer, so it would probably be best for everyone’s sake
2) Twitter isn’t going to read itself
3) I need another coffee

And before I remove the shackles, tell us where we can find you online.


Thanks Emily. Hope it was n’t too painful. Now be off with ya!