Catherine Skellern
6 min read

Copy Capital 2018

With a flask of coffee in hand and the early train beckoning, two intrepid Adtrak copywriters, Ryan and Catherine, took the trip down to London to be a part Copy Capital – a day where copywriters congregate to revel in all things copywriting! With a full lineup of speakers to look forward to, let’s hear about some of the key takeaways they brought back to Nottingham.

Ryan’s Key Takeaways

A pep talk for copywriters

It’s nice to celebrate your work, it makes you feel good about what you do. Alex Gancy (Head of Creative Design at Virgin Holidays) talked to us about his love of copywriting and focused on the positive influence that someone who ‘thinks like a writer’ can bring to marketing campaigns. A few choice quotes sum up his talk better than any flowery description so here are some of the best – the ones that epitomise what it means to be a copywriter:

“As copywriters, the tools of our trade are concealed weapons. And we get to take them with us everywhere.”

“Copywriters are like Liam Neeson – they have a very particular set of skills.”

“Every time I think about it, I feel lucky to be a copywriter. Because we get to work with words.”

It’s difficult to disarm a bomb

Not every talk was intrinsically linked to writing. Easily the most thought-provoking speaker was Mark Budden MBE, who gave us a stark insight into his past life as a bomb disposal officer in Afghanistan. A humble, eloquent man, Mark told us all about the development of IEDs in Helmand, and the monumental task he and his teams had to find and dispose of bombs underground, in fields and under roads.

He started his talk by saying that “leadership is having the ability to get someone to do something they don’t want to do, willingly – and I think that’s what you guys (copywriters) can do”. Before jumping into his tour of duty diary, he asked us to: “think about how you might market this experience to someone,”. After everything we heard, I think that’s an impossible task.

Choose a character, write as if a bomb is about to go off

Surprisingly, the subject of bombs came up again later, albeit in a different context, as James Cross (Head of BBC Creative) took the stage as the final speaker. As copywriters, it’s pretty common to come across a brief that’s, let’s just say, not the most exciting thing in the world.

To be able to produce something that transcends the topic – something interesting – he offered up two tips: first, when presented with something boring write as if a bomb is about to go off. Bogging yourself down and complaining about tedious briefs isn’t going to get work of any worth done; instead, this intense approach encourages you to concisely deal with the task at hand without giving yourself enough time to waffle or get hung up on it. Write something explosive if you can, and you might be surprised by how fun the work ends up being.

Second, choose a character and write from their perspective. We all know about ‘audience’ and keeping them in mind as you write, but trying to embody someone from your target market and writing from their perspective is a creative method for beating the boredom – and it’s something I’m eager to implement.

Catherine’s Key Takeaways

We enjoyed fancy organic cola

Everyone likes free stuff, especially of the edible variety. So imagine our excitement when the day kicked off with a Copy Capital goody bag. Our (reusable) bag was packed full of treats, including lots of industry-related booklets and papers, a mindful colouring book, a pack of cards that commanded us to TAKE F*CKING RISKS and, most importantly, lots of food. Along with tasty snacks, and a rather excellent vegan brownie from Pulsin, we were also introduced to a can of Karma Cola – organic coke without the artificial elements.

Copywriters past and present

The star speaker of the day was acclaimed feminist author Fay Weldon, who began her career as a copywriter for Ogilvy. So who better than Amy Lewis – the current senior copywriter at Ogilvy – to interview her on stage? It was interesting to hear both women exchange stories of their time in advertising copywriting, and to see just how much the industry has changed – especially in its attitude towards women.

Mental health matters

One stand-out speaker was Neil Hughes – a very anxious man indeed. I’m not scorning him here, rather anxiety was the subject of his engaging (and very funny) speech about mental health. As a professional comedian, Neil has chosen to take a light-hearted approach to his condition, turning mental health talks into somewhat of a stand up gig, and releasing a humorous self-help book, ‘Walking on Custard & The Meaning of Life.’ Jokes aside, Neil highlighted the challenge that mental health has on many people’s personal and professional lives, but also offered a strong glimmer of hope that it’s always possible to retrain your brain.  

Words can be visually pleasing

Teresa Monachino is a graphic designer with a mission to prove that letters, fonts and language can convey a strong visual message – much like images. Some of her most impressive projects include the cover of a music photography book (What Presence! The Rock Photography of Harry Papadopoulos) that cleverly used the artists’ names to form the shape of both a camera lens and a record disk. She also designed all 22 covers of The Collected Muriel Spark Novels – using the beauty of font and text alone to entice the reader.

Overall, the day was an unmissable chance to hear from leading figures in creative industries and copywriting. Thanks for having us, Copy Capital!


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