Hogisms – now available weekly.

I’ve been naughty a blogger. Some of you, like Travis, wait for a post patiently, while others, like David Esrati, aren’t quite so patient. He wrote me often, asking me to remember my committment to post reguarly and share insight on Radical Careering, advertising, and life. Guess what: you have David to thank for my new 2.0-ing on this site, and for making more frequent posts.

I’m also starting a weekly column in AdAge and AdAge.com, named Hogshead On. I’ll be posting those goodies here as well.

Thanks to David, here’s the first of the Ad Age columns. And there will be more. I’ll even write a post on why you should hope someone like David spanks you into doing this 2.0 thing as part of your business strategy. But for now, here’s the first Ad Age column in all its glory (David even added zesty links to give you bonus material for reading it here.)

Advertising Age – How to Write a Weekly Column
When Ad Age asked me to write a weekly column, I thought, gosh, that sounds fun, and really, now, how hard could it be if it’s only 500 words apiece?


To demonstrate the cold splash of reality currently drenching my face, consider that I’ve already checked the word count of my writing so far (55).

In the next 445 words, I’ll describe how this will be a career column that’s not about careers. At least, not exactly. The reality is that careers in advertising are changing impossibly fast. We are, each of us, more vulnerable than the 30-second spot.

When I got into this business in 1993 as a junior copywriter at Fallon McElligott, my job focused on writing campaigns for clients, preferably with an ironic or poignant or pithy headline, depending on the strategy. Puns had just recently gone out of favor (although a recent national award-winning ad sold a pasta maker with the headline “Pasta, Fasta.” Ouch).

Like all copywriters, I spent a high percentage of my time on things like clever turns of phrase. Back in those days, an ad without a headline was so out-there that it seemed almost inconceivable for anyone but Neil French. A copywriter’s market value was determined by his (or her –I was the second female copywriter hired at Fallon) ability to write good words. Soon, however, the TV reel became the currency du jour for creatives, and words began to fall out of favor. Headlines became passe right around the time I got really good at writing them. Damn.

Around that time, a nifty gadget named “the Internet” (with a capital I) became popular, which led to these things called “Web sites” (with a capital W). Of course, any self-respecting creative would never under any circumstances want to work on a “Web” assignment, for the same reasons we shunned FSI coupons. And besides, this whole “Internet” thing didn’t even have an award-show category.

It all seems rather quaint in retrospect, no? Today, virtual gaming assignments can propel a copywriter’s career farther and faster than a print campaign possibly could. Interactive agencies handpick from the choicest portfolios. And TV campaigns, while still among the juiciest opportunities a copywriter can enjoy, hardly represent the be-all and end-all anymore. In fact, the most admired TV spots work more like websites in their level of interactivity.

I wonder: Is there a status reversal in the works? Will words become obsolete in a copywriter’s career? Are headlines the buggy whips of advertising?

As consumers turn away from TV ads, how long until a creative director’s DVD reel gets replaced by cellphone screens showing mobile content and URL links of online branded entertainment?

Will a 30-second spot one day be the dregs of assignments? (”Give the Super Bowl spot to Mikey. He’ll work on anything.”)

If you work in any field even remotely related to advertising, odds are good your job changed as fundamentally as mine has over the past decade. When our industry reinvents, so do our own careers. What are you doing today to evolve your job description?

I’ll admit, I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does. That’s the fabulous/terrifying part of working in advertising these days. By the time the answers become clear, they are already defunct.

Each week in this column, I’ll be exploring a different “how-to” on these topics. How to survive the ADD workday. How to hone your competitive advantage in a fragmented environment. How to navigate the new forms of branding, media, technology and innovation. How to kick ass in a world that’s kicking yours. Well, lookie here: 598 words already. I will now demonstrate how to end an Ad Age article.

7 Responses to “Hogisms – now available weekly.”

  1. Travis Says:

    It’s nice to see blog trackback tools working their magic. : )

    If you promise to write on a regular basis and miss a few weeks, shit happens, we understand. Adfolk and creatives are surprisingly forgiving, well, other than David of course.

    The elongated period between posts can be frustrating from some readers, but at times it adds a bit more umph and makes them that much more remarkable. Almost like they’re limited edition or on back order.

    It’s great to have you back Sally.

  2. Dan Ward Says:

    Welcome back – good luck with the new column and the new blogging plan! I’ll pass the word on my blog…

  3. David Burn Says:

    When our industry reinvents, so do our own careers.

    In my case, this couldn’t be more true. If you would have asked me three years ago what I would be doing at an event marketing agency, I would have been dumbfounded. For what could a copywriter do in such a place? Well, now I know. Now, I’m the editor of an online music magazine that supports our biggest client’s event series. I have not made an ad in over a year. I’m more of a publicist/journalist now. Crazy. But in a good way.

  4. Sally Hogshead Says:

    David, I love reading that. Your new job sounds approximately one zillion times cooler than writinng ads.

  5. Dave Reyburn Says:

    Your comments about the need to reinvent ourselves is sage advice. Recently I left a cush ECD gig with a global network for a position with a direct marketing company. I have friends who work for some great shops and they probably think I have either lost my edge or am cruising toward retirement but I think it will prove to be the smartest move I ever made. While I have not achieved the level of consistent creative recognition you have, I have tasted enough modest award success with the Mercury Awards, the One Show, CA and the Clios to know how great it feels to see my name listed in the credits. And I can still admit that my career will feel more complete once I have a Lion or a Gold Pencil on my desk.

    But I have also seen how much influence CFOs have begun to exert over marketing departments and have come to the conclusion that creative brilliance is being replaced by creative effectiveness as the new coin of the client/agency realm. This is going to be a shock for people who can’t start concepting without a $300,00 tv budget and the prospect of a two-week stint at the Sunset Marquis in January.

    Clients still want– in fact are in desparate need of– big marketing/branding ideas. But they’re also starving for ways to show ROI because they’re fighting for their professional lives every day. I think now is a great time to be in our business for anyone who can approach every new assignment as an opportunity to connect clients with customers.

    But it’s also a bad time to make distinctions bet

  6. Dave Reyburn Says:

    (Sorry, hit submit by accident) ween “good” creative assignments e.g. a tv spot, and “bad” assignments, e.g. an email campaign. Becoming adept at creating for highly trackable media, while on the surface unglamorous or even scary, will provide more long-term career insurance than a reel full of spots shot by David Fincher. Personally, I’d prefer to spend two weeks with the Barbarian Group.

  7. mudskippah Says:

    Interesting overview of how times have changed in this industry. I am a 2 year old writer in Kenya. Africa. The interesting thing about the industry here is that, owing to our level of economic/technological development, we are simoultaneously in 1980, 90, 2000 and now. We still do coupons and brochures, still doing big slogans and promo buzzwords. A big part of the market has little or no access to today’s technology, or today’s anything, so that even a TV ad is a big deal. Yet, at the same time, small parts of the market (but with higher purchasing power and hence more attractive to marketers) have access to most current technologies, to some degree. Our internet usage is still very “web 1.0″ but you know how fast these things move.


    So, on a typical week, I work on brochures for a rural campaign, lots of radio, the occasional TV spot (still a big assignment for us) and now, the hallowed internet. I am proud to recently have been part of the creative team (yeah, AD and CW, remember that arrangement?) that developed Kenya’s first campaign to truly integrate ‘new’ and ‘old’ media. (check http://www.landlordlove.co.ke and firsthop.co.ke). Basic, crude, but first nevertheless.

    And in this forgotten part of the advertising universe, I have learnt one thing: Creativity is what counts. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a TV spot or some funky internet community thingie, WHAT WORKS IS WHAT WORKS. We should not abandon headlines for minimal copy, then no copy, then interactive, then the next thing that comes, just because it is what’s in. Whatever achieves results, even it was in fashion in 1800, achieves results…

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