After reading Tim Roper’s piece in Adweek, How the Hyphen Is Shaping the Future of Advertising, a memory came back to me.
It was 2012. I was at my first full-time job as a junior copywriter at a well-known New York ad agency, working on a pitch to win the second-largest discount retailer account in the United States.
In a review with two of my executive creative directors – both accomplished ad pros with lots of accolades behind them – I commented on a font that was chosen for a particular print ad on the wall.
“I don’t think that typeface is the right match for the headline,” I said. “What if it were a sans serif?”
To which one of them immediately replied, “Why don’t you just stick to writing?”
I exited their office and walked back to my desk feeling stung and small. I sank into my chair, and my thoughts.
What an a-hole. I was just trying to help. Whatever. Besides, he’s probably right. What do I know about art direction?
I always liked design and typography, and had taken classes in school. But I kind of kept it a secret, as if the ability to both write a good headline and mask an object in photoshop were something to be ashamed of.
As my career unfolded, I always had this fear. If they discover my passion for art direction, they’ll think I’m a hack writer.
I got that idea from people I respected growing up, who said, “A jack of all trades is a master of none.” That idiom made a lot of sense to me.
Funny enough, when looking up that expression for this piece, I came across an article, “7 Phrases You’ve Been Misquoting”.
And get a load of this:
A jack of all trades is a master of none. This saying got cut short as well and originally said “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” Unlike what our version would lead you to believe, having multiple interests but not being an expert in anything could actually prove advantageous.
I was sitting at my desk making changes to the scripts my partner and I had presented. There’s nothing worse that trying to be creative when your ego has been bruised.
I kept hearing the words “stick to writing” in my head.
At 10:25 PM an email arrives at the top of my inbox.
“Dude-” he writes. “Gotta say I love your enthusiasm and ‘let’s solve it’ attitude-”
I’m reading this, touched that he took the time to write to me.
“And I apologize for saying ‘stick to writing’ — hope you know I don’t mean that in the slightest. It is clear you love your job which is refreshing to see”
His punctuation left something to be desired. But whatever. He was “an art director by trade”.
“You bring something special to the table as a result — this energy makes people around you better- b/c they are inspired to have fun too-”
At this point I had to take off my glasses and rub my eyes to continue reading his words.
“Thanks for caring and keep it up — you will succeed for certain”
I responded, thanking him for his apology.
Feeling lighter, I think I wrote ten new scripts that night.
I kept his email as a little memento.
In the years since, whenever he pops up in my Facebook feed, I think of how he lowered himself and did the right thing.
You can be a copywriter and also have an opinion on art direction. And you can hurt someone’s feelings and also apologize.