From slogans to stardom

Dog walking.

Writing radio scripts for The Beeb.

Some of our fellow creatives have recently left the ad game to do something completely different.

So in this week’s Department of Words, we look back at a selection of copywriters who went on to find fame after switching careers. 


Fay Weldon

Before becoming one of the UK’s most successful authors, Fay Weldon enjoyed a notable spell in advertising.

She was involved in Ogilvy’s famous ‘Go to work on an egg’ campaign.

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And, when working on the Smirnoff account, Weldon proposed the no-nonsense slogan ‘Vodka gets you drunker quicker’.

“It just seemed obvious,” she said later, “that people who wanted to get drunk fast needed to know this.”

Makes sense to me. But despite the line’s unarguable truth, it was rejected.


F Scott Fitzgerald

At 22, a jobless F Scott Fitzgerald was desperate to marry Zelda Sayre – a rebellious and beautiful socialite.

But she wasn’t keen on tying the knot until he could support them both financially. So Fitzgerald took a job writing ad slogans.

And he had some success. His line ‘We keep you clean in Muscatine’, written for a steam laundry company in Muscatine, Iowa, earned him a pay rise.

But Fitzgerald fell out of love with advertising pretty quickly.

“I was a failure,” he later lamented. “Mediocre at advertising work and unable to get started as a writer. Hating the city, I got roaring, weeping drunk on my last penny and went home.”

Writing novels seemed like a wiser career choice for such a melodramatic personality. So in 1920, Fitzgerald published ‘This Side of Paradise’, a novel he’d started writing in college.

It was an instant success. And Sayre, knowing she was onto a good thing, agreed to marry him.

The rest, of course, is history.


Hugh Hefner

Before launching his famous ‘lifestyle and entertainment magazine’, Hugh Hefner had a promising career as a professional writer.

In 1951 he was working as a promotions copywriter for Esquire Magazine. But when the business moved to New York, his request for a five-dollar raise was denied.

So Hefner decided to launch a publication of his own.

“I wanted to read a magazine that was a little more sophisticated and was focused on the romantic connection between the sexes from a male point of view,” he said.

And within a year he’d published the first issue of Playboy – featuring none other than Marilyn Monroe on the cover.

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But even as a publisher, Hefner continued to channel his creativity. Impressively, he held the position of Chief Creative Officer at Playboy until the ripe old age of 90.


Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie probably had the most distinguished advertising career of the lot.

During his time at Charles Barker and Ogilvy & Mather, Rushdie came up with lines like ‘That’ll do nicely’ for American Express, ‘Naughty but Nice’ for Fresh Cream Cakes, and ‘Irresistibubble’ for Aero bars.

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Apparently, the latter was inspired by a panicking, perspiring colleague who was struggling to deal with a client.

“Whatever my colleague was asked, he said he couldn’t do,” according to Rushdie.

“He said, ‘It’s impossib-ib-ib-ible’, and I thought ‘Ping!’

“While he was still on the phone sweating and stammering, I wrote down every word I could think of that ended with ‘able’ or ‘ible’ and turned it into ‘bubble’.”

As this distinguished array of former copywriters demonstrate, going from writing slogans to wallowing in stardom is a real possibility.

So will our fellow copywriters do the same?

Watch this space…

A lyrical listicle

Cheese guitar

Despite what Writer-C believes, I think a world without music would be far worse than a world without cheese.

And because songs contain words, I reckon I can get away with writing a blog post about great lyrics.

So here are a few of my favourites, in the easily digestible style of a Buzzfeed listicle…

‘I guess I should’ve known
By the way you parked your car sideways
That it wouldn’t last.
See you’re the kinda person
That believes in makin’ out once
Love ‘em and leave ‘em fast.’

Little Red Corvette

‘There’s a club if you’d like to go.
You could meet somebody who really loves you.
So you go and you stand on your own.
And you leave on your own.
And you go home and you cry
And you want to die.’

How Soon Is Now
The Smiths

‘This beautiful blend
I knew her through a mutual friend.
She was a work of art
part of my heart
from back then.
A brown skin singer
with a knack for acting.
And her attraction
was just fractionally
based on…

The ‘Notic
The Roots

‘Idiot wind.
Blowing every time you move your mouth.
Blowing down the back roads headin’ south.
Idiot wind.
Blowing every time you move your teeth.
You’re an idiot, babe.
It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.’

Idiot Wind
Bob Dylan

‘A heart that’s full up like a landfill.
A job that slowly kills you.
Bruises that won’t heal.
You look so tired, unhappy.
Bring down the government.
They don’t, they don’t speak for us.
I’ll take a quiet life.
A handshake of carbon monoxide.’

No Surprises

‘Now I’m thirteen
Smokin’ blunts, makin’ cream.
On the drug scene
Fuck a football team.
Risking ruptured spleens
By the age of sixteen.
Hearing the coach scream
Ain’t my lifetime dream.’

The Notorious B.I.G.

I bear more grudges
Than lonely high court judges.
When you sleep
I will creep
Into your thoughts
Like a bad debt
That you can’t pay.
Take the easy way
And give in.’

The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get

‘When she’s gone I’ll miss our slow easy walks
Playing scrabble with the chimes of the grandfather clock.
I’ll even miss the times that we fought.
But mostly I’ll miss being able to call her and talk.’

I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love
Sun Kil Moon

‘Please don’t get me twisted, I’m far from a heathen.
This is just a simple song of basic rhyme and reason.
It’s not my meaning to demean or blaspheme.
But most things in the Bible ain’t as plain as they seem.
Can I trust King James to translate these papers?
Do I need a middle-man to link with the creator?’

Sinny Sin Sins
Roots Manuva

‘Mother, mother
Everybody thinks we’re wrong.
Who are they to judge us
Simply cause we wear our hair long?’

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)
Marvin Gaye

Nailed or failed?

KFC have just launched their very own fried chicken-flavoured nail polish.

In other words, nail varnish with notes of enriched flour wheat, modified food starch, chicken fat, salt and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

Sounds tasty.

I get the thinking behind it. Chicken-flavoured nail polish works nicely as a literal expression of KFC’s famous slogan: ‘It’s finger lickin’ good’. And the stunt has already racked up a fair bit of media coverage, which will shift a few more buckets of deep fried delight.

But let’s face it; KFC nail polish is just a gimmick.

Only a few hundred limited edition bottles will be produced, and they’ll only be available in Hong Kong. So very few people will ever have the chance to buy it, let alone try it.

And soon, KFC nail polish will be completely forgotten about, tossed onto the silly stunt scrapheap like so many before it.

But it did get me thinking – are advertising stunts an effective way of building a brand? Or are they just gimmicks?

So I decided to take a look at a few examples and give my verdict on each.

See if you agree…

Great or gimmick?

Sun Band (Nivea)

Nivea ran a magazine ad that included a bracelet with location tracking technology. The bracelet could be torn out and placed on a child’s wrist, and in combination with an app, parents were able to track their child’s movements at the beach.



Too fiddly. And surely parents with very young children shouldn’t let them out of their sight in the first place? 


Bullet Proof Glass Challenge (3M)

3M put $3 million inside a bulletproof, 3M glass case on the street – and challenged passers-by to break in and claim the cash.



It’s a simple and memorable idea that demonstrates of the product’s strengths. However, the glass case actually only contained $500. So maybe 3M weren’t that confident after all.


Clever Buoy (Optus)

Australian mobile network Optus created Clever Buoy – a buoy that uses mobile technology to detect sharks and send alerts to lifeguards.



Great idea. Great name.


Memories Bucket (KFC)

The colonel’s at it again. To celebrate their 60th anniversary, KFC Canada created The Memories Bucket – a bucket of fried chicken with a built-in, Bluetooth-powered polaroid printer.



How many memories are made in KFC?


Beer billboard (Carlsberg)

In 2015 the Danish brewer unveiled a beer-dispensing billboard at The Old Truman Brewery in London, emblazoned with the line: ‘Probably the best poster in the world’.



Simple, effective and on-brand (with free beer).


Instagram your Fridge (Smirnoff)

Instagram a photo of your fridge, and Smirnoff will show you how to make a cocktail from the contents, sending you back a personalised recipe video.



Come on. Where do I start?


My verdicts have probably ruffled a few feathers.

But even though I maintain that fried chicken-flavoured nail polish is about as gimmicky as it gets, the reality is I’ve just dedicated 471 words to the topic.

So in actual fact, maybe KFC did nail it?

Whats the point of the apostrophe?


If you understood the title of this blog post (and hopefully you didnt have too much trouble), it raises a potentially earth-shattering question – whats the point of the apostrophe?

Is it an indispensible part of the English language, or something we can live without?

Id argue its the latter. 

Perplexing punctuation

Apostrophe usage is certainly a topic that stirs the passions (if you dont believe me, check out this beautiful website).

And as a copywriter, Id probably be expected to defend this controversial punctuation mark to the death.

But the truth is it doesnt bother me – or confuse me – when apostrophes are used incorrectly.

So I think its time to get rid of them.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Its pointless

How often does incorrect apostrophe usage lead to genuine misunderstandings? In reality, theyre usually unnecessary.

  • Its distracting

All the apostrophe seems to do is frustrate and annoy the people that know how it should be used, while confusing those who dont.

  • Its not suited to modern technology

Apostrophes are often difficult to find on smartphones. And, when combined with predictive text software, youve got a perfect storm of apostrophe chaos and confusion.

Exceptions to the rule

There are, of course, some cases where apostrophes are helpful.

The plural possessive (‘my friend’s friends’ vs ‘my friends’ friends’, for example) allows us to communicate subtle differences in the possessive case. And some contractions – like he’ll and we’re – could be confusing without apostrophetic intervention.

But the context of the sentence will almost always make the meaning clear.

So in conclusion, I think its time to say farewell to the apostrophe.

And I hope youve been persuaded by my meticulous and exhaustive apostrophe analysis.

But more importantly

You got to the end of the post and it all made sense?

Then I rest my case…