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Copywriters on the rack #34: Mark Grainger

Mark Grainger On The Rack – Blog by Jonathan Wilcock

Hello and welcome to Copywriters on the Rack. That Smell? Oh, that was our last guest, but don’t worry he’s err… gone now. Anyway…

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

I’m Mark Grainger, a creative and conversational copywriter from the North East of England and owner of Blossom Tree Copy. I’ve also just opened up consultancy spaces, which I’m hoping will make paying the bills even smoother and leave me more money for shiny things, toy robots, coffee, and Sauvignon Blanc.

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

It started with a journalism degree and the heady dream of being the next Charlie Brooker. Unfortunately a financial crash meant that the only jobs were unpaid internships in that London or writing about football for the local paper, and neither were things I was willing to do.

A PR MA followed, leading to a job with no work to do, and then a role as copywriter in an agency with genuinely unstable management. No wonder I didn’t want another job after that company fell into the dustbin of the universe.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Definitely when you’re talking with someone and you can see an idea land, or bring something else to the surface that they hadn’t thought of. That and being able to hit the shops midweek when it’s quiet and there’s no queues. Maybe that.

I also only managed to meet my fiancée because I was freelance, otherwise our schedules would never have matched as they did.

What’s the worst?

The quiet times when you can feel the pull of the void and wonder if you’ll ever work again. Also, when you run out of tea and/or biscuits. Nightmare.

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

Well, the dog needs walking and there are always video games to play, books to read, and shops to meander around while pretending I’m a man about town sort. I’ll also spend as much time as possible with Sinéad, my fiancée, because she’s my favourite person and out at work a lot.

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 copy of Hello Magazine, three nipple tassels and a large tub of yoghurt, what’s your escape plan?

I’d turn the Hello Magazine into a pair of Spanish-style fans, don the tassels, and perform a dance so erotic that the guards would be powerless to stop me from moving past them. Covering myself with viscous yoghurt would help to get through those tight spaces too.

Write me a poem about an itch you can’t scratch.

Arms that cannot reach
A back lit with sensation
The T-rex sighs, abject

Write me three straplines for:

1) Tinder for dogs – Thousands of bottoms are not to be sniffed at.

2) Terminator, The Musical – ‘Come with us if you want to jive’. Or, ‘So good, you’ll be back!’

3) The Anarchy Party – Free cookbook for every member

Explain night clubbing to an alien.

Nightclubbing is a guaranteed way to later feel bad for doing something that, at the time, felt very good. It’s like stealing health and happiness from the next day in the thrall of music you know and like, substances you like and shouldn’t, and people you don’t know but might want to (but probably don’t).

Draw me a picture of 4 Ferrets playing mixed doubles tennis (yes I know you’re a writer, but do it anyway).

This relies a bit on you knowing about late-90s novelty gadgets. (Text reads “Don’t worry about her, she’s just reliving the 90’s”)

Dear reader, after a couple more cranks of the wheel, I squeezed this out of Mr. Grainger (along with a tear and a couple of squeaks):

Copywriting is like your worst enemy eating the last Rolo, discuss.

Like many of us I assume, I can be my own worst enemy. So, eating the last Rolo fills me with both a deep sense of peace and accomplishment, as well as the sour panic that I’ve now got to find more Rolos. Exactly like the end of any copywriting project.

No. I think you’ll find that right now, I’m you’re worst enemy. Now, make my skin crawl.

Imagine you’re in a town or city centre, minding your business, taking in the sounds and sights when all of a sudden there’s a distant rustle of bells. Small bells, attached to clothing, steadily getting louder and more persistent and inevitable. Before you’ve placed the meaning, the Morris Dancers emerge.

Gleaming in brilliant white like a nightmare in the Daz factory, rictus-stiff in their gaiety and intent to inflect the jangling bells and clonking wood on anyone still in the vicinity.

It makes my skin crawl in any rate. My partner tries takes the mick out of my aversion to Morris Dancers, but she’s scared of spiders and she’s never once had to evict a traditional rural performer from the living room using a tumbler and a piece of stray cardboard so she can’t comment.

Make my heart melt.

When we adopted our dog, she’d never known a home or love. She flinched away from any touch that came from above her, and she curled herself into a ball in the corner. With patience and love, she has become a relaxed, playful, affectionate part of the family and there are tons of dogs out there just looking for their chance to love and be their best selves with you and it’s a magical thing.

What is love?

Love isn’t one thing or feeling. It moves, it shifts, it deepens and changes. It’s acceptance and, as Leonard Cohen said, it’s the only engine of survival

Who would be the guests at your nightmare dinner party and what would you serve to make it even worse?

Either of the Gallagher brothers because I find their whole schtick so intensely boring, Jared Leto because he’s possibly the worst actor I’ve ever seen and he’d probably try to induct people into a cult of some sort, and literally any of the cabinet ministers from the last 13 years. To complete the nightmare, I’d be serving baked beans, because the smell literally makes me retch and heave even more than any of the guests.

Pick a random pic from your camera roll and tell us about it.

This is my much-missed Mam and my fiancee on a day out in my home town of South Shields. I never had girlfriends when I was young, and for my Sinéad to meet my Mam and form a bond with her before she died is something that I treasure. They became close in a relatively short time.

Write me a very short story featuring: Colin Firth rehearsing his role as Mistress Quickly in Henry IV Part 2, The Forth Bridge being painted by The Seven Dwarves, and King George V all at sixes and sevens about a pair of gentleman’s unmentionables found in Queen Mary’s knicker drawer.

“I’ faith, sweetheart, methinks now you are in good temperality. Your pulsidge beats as extraordinarily as…”

A blast of horns cuts short the recitation and Colin Firth swears under his breath, concentration broken again. It would take the seven dwarves less time to paint the Forth Bridge from end to end than it’ll take him to learn these lines.

Folding his glasses away and tucking them into the pocket of a particularly louche cardigan, Colin leans back and closes his eyes as the radio news plays on. Men’s underwear seemingly found in Queen Mary’s knicker draw, potentially casting light on why King George V was in such a tizz all the time. A secret lover, muses the radio, or a cross-dressing habit allowing the Queen to move around undected?

How very Shakespearean that would be, thinks Colin.

Who would win in a fight: Danny Dire or Dirty Den?

Danny Dyer if it was up close and personal, Dirty Den if Danny Dyer was an unarmed taxi driver….

Write me dictionary definition entries for ‘Wilcock’s Lexicofantabulous Compendium of Oddities and Soddities’:

1) Throat Hockey – Particularly vigorous kissing in the French tradition, popular in Canada.

2) Gloria’s Portion – When you surreptitiously cut a cake/pie in slightly unequal pieces to score more than 50%. “That cheeky mare has taken Gloria’s Portion again, I see.”

3) Bibsdiff – What you type when you suspect you are being watched and don’t want to be seen staring inertly at the screen, even if you’re deep in thought.

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).

Do my ipod and headphones count as two separate things? Let’s say they’re one thing. I’d need a decent sized mug because I can’t drink out of my hands, a pair of nail scissors because nails drive me mad, some lens cleaner because my glasses always end up with more fingerprints than the Police database, a pillow, and probably some suntan lotion. I love lying in the sun, but I’m intensely ginger-skinned.

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

Why can’t drivers merge in turn? Seriously, do we love queuing so much that we decide to forgo the rules and start new queues en masse? Cars filter in to the front one at a time, nobody has to sit in the one lane for half an hour, it’s not hard. Phew.

Give me three reasons why I should let you go.

1) The dog is crossing her legs and threatening to crap on the futon again.
2) My partner will have eaten all the crisps in the house.
3) I’ll hog the TV if I stay and you’ve probably got programmes you want to watch.

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

You can find my tenuously business-related nonsense on LinkedIn
More pictures of my dog and things I’ve seen on Instagram
And I’m still clutching on the Flotsom left by the wreckage of Twitter/X too.
Oh, and if anyone particularly likes toy robots, I have an Instagram for that too

Right. Sorry (not sorry) about the bruises. Egor! Show this wretch out!

Time for another? Check this out – Copywriters on the rack #25: Vikki Ross