A Game Of Two Wharves

will-awdryWill Awdry, Copywriter turned creative director turned (accidentally) managing director at BBH, DDB and Ogilvy & Mather has jumped the advertising ship to test the waters of writing for design. He’s now creative director at Big Fish and is on the look out for a copywriter to join him there. Could it be you?

Every now and then, a news story of miscarried justice features someone blinking in the flashbulbs, out after years banged-up on the wrong charge. My situation isn’t quite like that, but there are parallels. After three decades, I’ve escaped from advertising and into design. It’s an eye opener. It is also brilliant.

I should confess to a bad case of Stockholm syndrome in my previous life. I loved my jailors. They included some of the most enlightened and enlightening people I have ever met. I was always a privileged and willing captive.

Nevertheless, there is a wonderful liberation to my existence. I work as creative director at Big Fish. It’s a privately owned design, branding and packaging consultancy with a twenty-year history. My last port of call was Canary Wharf, where I sat with many hundreds of people. I now look down on the river from Chelsea Wharf in Lots Road, in company with less than fifty souls.

Compared to the slower moving wheels of corporate behemoths, I now work at a very different pace. Our clients are almost exclusively independent-minded, British businesses, such as Dorset Cereals, Tyrrells Crisps, Clipper Teas and Yeo Valley. The working day is refreshingly swift, agile and oxygenated after the gluey rust belt of much global marketing. My diary is about tight time lines, fast moving agendas and, best of all, my own. There seem to be many fewer meetings. Instead of being commanded to “J-F-D-I”, the mantra here is Let’s Just All Do It.

Have I drunk the Kool Aid? I wouldn’t say so. The talent levels are exceptional and there are day-to-day challenges arising from the humanity involved in both managing that talent and keeping to world class standards. Overall, the relief is in being not just allowed, but encouraged, to get on with it, emphatically so after 75 days in the job.

The discipline is different enough for me to have to be un-learning as much as I’m learning. I still write a great deal every day. If advertising is, principally, the business of renting space in people’s brains, packaging and pack-ver-tising is about renting peoples’ eyeballs. That can be as much a written skill as a design one. At Big Fish, it’s an immediate, hand-to-hand game, viscerally fought with beautiful weapons and particularly human language. I had thought it would all be about compression, but there is plenty of amplification too. Just read the back of a pack of Tyrrells.

It happens that I’m keeping loose tabs on my previous life by continuing to coach the Writing For Advertising course for D&AD. But that’s another story.

For now, there’s a Damascene excitement to my conversion. As a company, Big Fish is looking to grow. We are, genuinely, looking for a copywriter to join us. I think it would suit someone who’s been working for a few years, but there are always exceptions to the rule. There’s a form, which can lead to a fabulous copy test and some fun to be had here.

I’ve swum happily up river to Big Fish. Now I’d love someone splendid to join our particular pool.

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