I had just turned 50 when the advertising agency that employed me as a creative director decided I should transfer to our agency in Korea. I didn’t wait to hear whether it was North or South. Time to leave.

I didn’t have a wife to go home and break the news to, so I told the bloke next door. He took it well. We went out for dinner to celebrate.

It was time to face up to reality and plan my second career. I sought inspiration.

I went to Tuscany for a month in autumn and wandered country lanes watching farmers pick olives. I had hoped to receive a vision of my future during this time: voices in a deserted chapel, the shock of a renaissance painting, a deep feeling for the Italian way of life, a youngish older widow, a backward glance, a violin through an open window, the opening sentence of a novel scribbled on the back of a railway timetable.

Clear skies and cold nights. During the day we tramped the steep lanes as the smoke from burning vine cuttings rose in the crisp air. Down in the valleys in the mornings, the mists swirled about making fantasy islands of hilltop villages and distant chapels. Later in the day, the muddy valley floors echoed to the barks, shouts and shot gun fire of hunters in tailored camouflage suits with expensive pedigreed dogs chasing after, mostly imaginary, wild boar. It even snowed one day leaving the towers of San Gimignano stark against the white background.

I drank coffee and grappa in bars at neighbouring villages and persuaded myself I could recognise the difference between the freshly pressed green olive oil from our village and the next.

Darkness came [...]

By |September 18th, 2013|Thanks for Lunch|0 Comments|

Strategy planning on the back of an envelope

Copy to come

By |September 17th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments|

How to write your own copy

If you’re planning to write your own copy it’s best to get started early.

In my case, I was reading under the blankets with a torch at the age of 11. The classic bookworm. First class honours in English Literature and an Arts degree followed.

Then seven years as a journalist learning under fire on national papers with four editions daily. Dictating copy in laundromats (they tended to have the best phones); or in the newsroom writing ‘from the top’ one paragraph to a slip torn from your typewriter immediately and rushed to the news desk. Canberra and Melbourne. City and country.

Cut to an office off Fleet Street, London. Early morning. I sit writing directly onto a teleprinter which is spitting out a hundred feet of tape. It has to be painstakingly coiled without tearing before it can be dispatched via satellite back to Australia. You learn to chose your words carefully. There is no going back on a teleprinter.

(Curious youth may wish to Google typewriter and teleprinter.)

I started in advertising under the redoubtable Phillip Adams in Melbourne diving in at the deep end as MDA (Monahan Dayman Adams) was reeling in the blue chips accounts.  But London, at that time, was where the best advertising was happening.

And so, Dick Wittington like I came with my modest portfolio of work to find those streets paved with gold. Dozens of television commercials, hundreds of ads and an embarrassment of long lunches followed over the next 14 years. Europe, the Americas and Asia.

I learnt the craft of making radio and television. Directing famous names and spending budgets that could run to several hundred thousand of pounds.

But my first love was always print. Typography was king. Copy was crafted [...]

How dangerous is copywriting?

What do copywriters do when the phone doesn’t ring?

I had taken off from the corner of the desk as usual and done a couple of landing drills. Clear visibility and all systems working.

I flew to the coffee table, landed and then did a tour of the bookcases and the venetian blinds across the front of the house. There are often dangerous catabolic downdrafts here that can make flying a helicopter challenging.

Then back to the kitchen for some search and rescue over the fruit bowl and a long strafing run down the bench pulling up sharply over the coffee machine and turning back to the desk.

And then it happened. I think I may have been reaching for a biscuit at the time, but before I knew it the helicopter gained altitude too quickly and slammed into the louvres of the rear windows and crashed.

The blades would rotate but shudder. The gyro was out of line and the lack of control made flying impossible.

I was OK. Just a little shaken.