Become a copywriter – interview with Elvis Communications

The next in my series of “how to get into advertising” is with long-term Copywriter Mat Prime. Having worked at Elvis for over 2 years now – and previously working as a Senior Copywriter for the Readers Digest for over 5 years – Mat has a wealth of experience and knowledge that you would be a fool to ignore. So if you want to become a copywriter for an agency the likes of Elvis, this is the interview for you.

In their time, Elvis have earned themselves an impressive client roster, with names such as Honda, Sky, Virgin and Yakult to boast about; to name but a few. With such big clients there are a number of large and exciting projects to work on, projects which I’m sure a lot of budding Copywriters can only dream of working on. To find out more, I spoke to Mat about his typical work days, how he got into the industry and how he got his foot in the door with Elvis and what knowledge he can pass on to anyone wanting to become a Copywriter.

Become a Copywriter1. What is your day to day role like?

I’m the writing half of a Creative Team. We work for Sky, Auto Trader, Yakult, Honda and more. A job starts with my Art Director partner and myself sitting down together and generating as many good ideas as possible that answer the creative brief – the message that the client needs communicating. We then hone these ideas, me the words, him the visuals, and present them to the Creative Director. He chooses the best two or three and these go to the client for approval.

2. How did you get to where you are now?

Via a rather long and winding route. I was a Copywriter in the publishing industry, working on direct mail for several years, but I always wanted to try agency work. I did a D&AD creative workshop that was a great way to work on live briefs and make some industry contacts. From there I placed an ad on, met an Art Director, put a portfolio together and showed it around London town on the hunt for a placement.

become a copywriter

3. What was the biggest challenge you faced to get where you are now?

Getting past the ‘you don’t have agency experience’ wall. I overcame it by persistence, speculative emails to Creative Teams at agencies and most importantly, demonstrating I was capable of good creative ideas – Creative Directors value those above all else. I politely badgered one of the CDs at Elvis that I’d met on the D&AD workshop, repeatedly asking him to view my book. Eventually he invited us in for a book crit and from there we were given a placement. The rest is history.

4. What does Elvis look for from Copywriters?

Original, engaging creative thinking. Knowing how to make an idea work across different media – press, direct, digital, social. Writing skill. Some Copywriters neglect the craft that they’ll actually need after the ideas have been picked.

5. Where do you get your inspiration from?

Everywhere. Advertising is about addressing human needs and desires. So observe and listen. The insights of good stand up comedians can be great starting points.

6. How do you overcome a creative block?

With sleep, if there’s time. It’s a well known fact, but if you sleep on a problem your brain will continue to work it over and give you something new the next day. If there isn’t time? Take a little break and then try and attack the brief from a totally different angle.

“Pick a selection of brands and come up with original ways of advertising them to get a portfolio together. Then, do whatever it takes to get it in front of Creative Teams and Creative Directors.”

7. What advice would you give to budding Copywriters?

If you want to be a Creative Copywriter rather than just a Content Copywriter, find an Art Director. Pick a selection of brands and come up with original ways of advertising them to get a portfolio together. Then, do whatever it takes to get it in front of Creative Teams and Creative Directors. If you start by approaching Creative Teams, they can then recommend you to their Creative Director.

8. What steps would you recommend to getting into an agency?

A short post grad course could help you find your partner, build a book and get industry placements. The School of Communication Arts is getting great results for its students:

9. What has been your career highlight so far?

Winning the top award, The Grand Prix, at The Chip Shop Awards:

Key points to take away

My first point would have to be don’t let lack of experience be a downfall, go out and get experience or make some experience yourself. As Mat said, him and his Art Director sat down, picked some brands and created new ways in which to advertise the brands. Ad agencies just want to know that the ideas are there and that you are capable of creating ideas, so prove it to them. Lack of experience should never be a downfall, you can always turn this around.

My second point is to never take no for an answer. Don’t be annoying, irritating or a stalker. There is a fine line between persistence and just plain annoying so tread it carefully, but keep your name in front of Creative Teams and Creative Directors. Let them know you’re eager and serious about this industry, so they take your seriously. You are not the only one trying to be seen by these guys, so just try and make sure you are remembered by them. Don’t blur into all the other budding ad men and women.

I would say that’s the gist of my key points from this interview. The main bulk of it is about being persistent and not giving up. Constantly work at your craft and hone it. Gain experience where you can be seen by as many people as you can.

Elvis office