This is the third instalment of Inside the mind of a copywriter, and I have been really pleased with the willingness of fellow creatives to take part; all of the answers have been so detailed and helpful, and the interview below, with copywriting heavyweight Chris Miller is, in no way, an exception.
I’ve always been a firm believer that, if you can get your personality to shine through your writing, then you are on the right track, as long as you are not a psychopath that is.
When I first clicked through to Chris’ website I was instantly drawn in by his quirky, bold, “this is my style, take it or leave it” approach. I wanted to read on, I wanted to explore the other sections of his website, and I definitely wanted to rope him into answering some questions for this series. Fortunately I did all of those things, and the results of the latter can be found below.
Big thanks to Chris for answering these questions; I found his insights really helpful, so I am confident that everyone who takes the time to read this interview will get something from it. Enjoy!
McParland Copywriting: You’ve been in the business almost 20 years. What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed?
Chris Miller: Nearly 30, actually. It must be this boyish complexion that fooled you. The move away from quills and vellum was a pretty dramatic shift, to be honest. Then there was the advent of digital. It’s still early days, still but it looks as though that web thing might actually catch on after all. For aspiring creatives, being able to interact with peers and senior agency personnel through social media is great. And, for all of us, having a web presence is enormously useful. It beats the days of forgotten portfolios gathering layers of dust, cigarette ash and cocaine in the darkest recesses of agency receptions. Or the poor things being left on trains. (A fate once met by my own book. Our eventual reunion at Waterloo Station’s lost property office was a disgustingly emotional sight for all who beheld it.) There’s also plenty of content, in its many forms, needing to be written. Although much of it, let’s be honest, would be better left unwritten. This response scarcely scratches the surface of the iceberg tip of the full answer to your question, I’m afraid.
MC: Did it take a while to achieve success or was it quite quick?
CM: I’m still waiting, Michael. Still trying, and still waiting.
MC: Do you think that the awards you have won have brought you a lot of business?
CM: Hard to say. Although I suppose, at the very least, it does confer an aura of competence. I think the clincher is whether or not someone likes my website. If that doesn’t tickle their fancy, I’d imagine that even being presented with a Nobel Prize for Advertising by a genuflecting Sir John Hegarty wouldn’t be much use.
MC: Top three tips for someone getting into copywriting?
1) Get your spec work underneath the nose of someone you really respect*.
2) Listen carefully to what he or she has to say.
3) Go back and KEEP GOING BACK TO THE SAME PERSON with new and better work. Impress/wear down the poor bastard.
*“But how’d we do THAT, Chris?” You’re on your own here, kids. But you’ll think of something.
MC: Top three tips for someone already in copywriting?
1) Keep the faith. Despite what we’re told, this is not a post-copywriting era.
2) Continue to give far more of a shit about your work than the person you’re doing it for.
3) Stay away from my clients, if you value your kneecaps.
MC: What would you say is your favourite type of copy to write in terms of sector?
CM: Favourite? Anything enabling me to have a laugh without being slapped down like the grey-haired child I am.
MC: What would you say has been the biggest moment in your copywriting career?
CM: I cling to any complimentary comment made about my work like Kate Winslet clung to driftwood towards the end of Titanic.