When I was a fledgling writer, I had the thrill of working alongside ad-god Luke Sullivan. This week, a full decade later, we came full circle when I interviewed Luke on The Naked Career.
Long before Luke wrote Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, he was spouting pearls of wisdom in meetings and hallways. One pearl that always stuck with me: write 100 headlines for every 1 that you actually need.
Two years of hanging on Luke’s every word influenced my writing style, and working style. When I moved to NYC in 1995, I was given a spectacular assignment: a campaign for BMW Motorcycles. As the most junior writer in the office, I was quite aware that I only had a small window of time to prove myself before the more senior writers would swoop in and out-write me. So I channeled Luke as I wrote.
The BMW client wanted 8 ads, and following Luke’s advice, I wrote these 800 headlines. Some won awards, some suck bigtime, but I’m including them all in this PDF in the spirit of full disclosure. (Also in the spirit of disclosure: I’ve never ridden a motorcycle.)
This writing exercise reflects a few of the things Luke taught me:
Radical Truth #33: Work ethic trumps talent.
Radical Truth #34: Applause is approximately .003% of success.
Radial Truth #57: You are not done paying your dues.
After the campaign ran Luke sent a very sweet congratulatory note, which meant the world. But really, the campaign was more of a testimony to his writing mentorship. He didn’t even have to work with me on the assignment to have influenced the result.