Copywriters on the rack #27: Andrew Boulton
Hello and welcome to Copywriters on the Rack. Relax, it’ll be fine, honest.
Who are you and what do you do to pay the bills?
My name is Andrew Boulton and I partially pay my considerable expenses as a lecturer in creative advertising and creative writing at the University of Lincoln. Really though, I am a copywriter masquerading as an academic, and also as a person.
What was your career path to get to where you are now?
Delightfully scruffy, just like every other copywriter I know. Discovering that there was a thing called copywriting, where you get paid actual money to play with words and have peculiar thoughts was a genuinely life-changing moment. Discovering it before I bowled off to university to do an entirely useless degree would have been more useful though.
Once I did learn about it, I was lucky enough to wangle (this is not false-modesty, wangle is the only appropriate word) my way into an internal agency at the now sadly abandoned Egg credit card company. Since then, it’s been hopping around between various small agencies, working on a lot of very different (occasionally strange, occasionally wonderful) stuff, until a pal roped me into the teaching life.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Writing. Sculpting a precisely weighted sentence out of a hunk of granite, and bloodying your knuckles and your mind in the process. If you get great joy from a sentence that not only lives, but works as well as it possibly can, then writing is the only thing you’ll ever be able to do with your life. Your brain won’t allow you to walk away, I know that for sure. Teaching is great fun, but writing is the compulsion.
What’s the worst?
Whenever I’ve been employed, wherever that may have been, I have been asked (well, made) to spend my time and energy doing stuff that I am very bad at, and that keeps me away from doing the stuff I am good at – and have, ostensibly, been hired to do. I know this sounds like a familiar creative whinge, but I dread to think at the creative hours – and potentially brilliant ideas – that are lost each day to meetings the writer shouldn’t be in.
OK. Stop whinging and tell me how you fill the gaps when you’re not doing the day job.
I write stories. Tiny ones. There’s a wonderful flash/micro fiction community out there, with some remarkable journals and prizes, and I have stumbled into by accident. The word count tends to be around 250/300 words which suits me – perhaps because of my copywriting bones, but more likely because I am lazy and very easily distracted. I’ve won a few competitions (brag) and last year got a ‘highly commended’ in the Bridport prize (which is very much the big un, in that world) and, honestly, that was probably the proudest I’ve ever been of a word thing.
Now we’ve got the formalities out of the way, let’s go rogue:
You’re locked in a cell with 2-foot thick stone walls and no windows. Outside the solid steel door, two fully tooled-up guards keep watch in shifts, 24 hours a day. Armed with only a Cookie Monster glove puppet, a ball of string and a tin of sardines, what’s your escape plan?
I feel like Shawshank has sucked the imagination out of the prison-break game. So, unfortunately, I’m going to have to resort to simple misdirection and brute force.
First, I allow the sardines to gently warm for a number of weeks. When they are truly rancid, I scoff them and collapse on the floor with severe stomach cramps. Guards rush in, afraid that I will get vomit on their nice new cell. That’s when Cookie Monster, a notorious psychopath, shanks both guards with a stale fig roll. The plan works perfectly, except that Cookie Monster is a dangerously unpredictable assassin and garrotes me with the string for retching a sardine face onto his trainers.
Write me a poem about stains
Sit on a jelly
All is welly
Sit on a brownie
Better leave townie
Who would win in a fight, Richard or Judy?
He’s a classic, by-the-books pugilist. She’s a pure brawler, and carries a sock filled with old typewriter keys. It’s only ending one way.
My kinda gal. Now write me three straplines for:
1) The Milli Vanilli Comeback Tour
Fall back into the Sync Hole
2) McVities’ All-butter Brexit Biscuits
Everything is definitely fine
3) The NHS Tapeworm Slim Club
To get thin you’ve got to let it in
Explain online dating to an alien.
Strangers seek out other strangers who feel exactly the same way they do about Jaws 2. They arrange to meet and discuss nothing except Jaws 2. They agree Jaws 2 is actually pretty good and then marry.
Draw me a picture of a centipede having a fitting at the tailor’s (yes I know you’re a writer, but do it anyway).
Copywriting is like picking a scab, discuss.
It can also be, and often is, like licking a crab, flicking a tab, pricking a kebab, clicking a lab and bricking a cab.
Snog, marry, boil in salad cream: Gollum / Gandalf / Bilbo Baggins
Snog Gollum – cos he’s really Batman’s uncle in a green scuba suit.
Marry Gandalf – so I could steal his wizard hat and make loads of living mops and shit
Boil Bilbo – [sings football chant] YOU’RE JUST A SHIT MR TUMNUS, A SHIT MR TUUUUUUUMNUS!
What is love?
Someone who knows your shared home will one day collapse under the weight of all the unread books that we have no room for and lets you buy more books anyway.
Soppy git. What would you do with your last tenner?
Depending on the geographic location and economic conditions, buy around 140 to 320 Black-Jacks.
Pick a random pic from your camera roll and tell us about it.
Saved in order to illustrate my argument that Ian Woan was actually 1990s East Midlands Ronaldinho – an argument that is both utterly robust and frequently derided.
Write me a very short story featuring: Lisa Tarbuck covered in leeches, a Bishop with lipstick on his collar and a turnip that looks like Frankie Boyle.
Tarbuck pulled on the leech suit and waited. The bishop would be here soon. Stinking of warm bitter, with a smudge of lipstick on his tiny collar. The leech suit was part of Tarbuck now. She wore it as a reminder, a grim shrine to her lost self. How different it all was now, with the leeches, and the chicken bishop and the Museum of Celebrity Vegetables. The bishop walked in, clucked and dropped something heavy and round onto the floor. It rolled to Tarbuck’s leechy feet and stared up at her. My god, he’d found it. After all this time, it was theirs.
Make my skin crawl.
Some puppies are actually loads of spiders wearing a fluffy towel.
Make my heart melt.
Some spiders are tiny, eight-legged puppies.
Write me dictionary definition entries for ‘Wilcock’s Lexicofantabulous Compendium of Oddities and Soddities’:
A belly button that collects fluff that does not resemble the colour or texture of any garment that person has worn.
2) Lamb’s Didleys
Yorkshire puddings artificially shaped into rhomboids.
An ornamental fish that has no regrets.
If you were alone on a desert island for a month, what 6 items would you take with you? (they have to fit in a Morrison’s bag for life and yes, you can keep the bag)
• Super strength 1990s red Dax wax
• A cursed horn
• A poem about water
• A flip
• A flop
Make up your own question and tell me whatever you want to get off your chest (you can tell me about that cursed horn later).
Are Monster Munch actually nice or is it all nostalgia?
I tell myself that I really like Roast Beef Monster Munch but, honestly, a normal size bag becomes a bit of a trudge once you’re two knuckles in. I don’t think it’s a flavor problem necessarily, but the consistency of Monster Munch is problematic – requiring high volumes of munching that are consequently hard on the saliva glands, creating a substantial moisture deficit after just a few units. Overall, I think I want to enjoy a bag of Monster Munch more than I really do, and instead end up tossing away an unfinished third of a bag and weeping like a child for the past,
Give me three reasons why I should let you go.
I have a brie in the cooker
And before I remove the shackles, tell us where we can find you online.
Now scarper or I’ll set the puppy spider monsters on ya!
Want more Copywriter torture fun? Copywriters on the rack #26: Ben McKinney