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Real Life MadWoman: How I got into advertising.

Let me start by reminding everyone that no two career paths are the same. Especially into advertising. And especially into the creative side of advertising. Some go straight through college knowing they want to be in advertising. Some come to it as a second career later in life. This is my (abridged) story.

When I was a child I wanted to be a children’s author and illustrator. And an architect. And a dance teacher. And a reporter. And a dance teacher again.** Then reporter, or rather, “journalist.” And that’s what I was to the path to becoming.

I was in college. Studying communications with an emphasis in journalism. I worked for the school newspaper. I interned at a major dance magazine. I wrote opinion columns that afflicted the comfortable and comforted the afflicted. I proudly amassed a portfolio full of writing clips that surely would have landed me (at the very least) on the obit desk of some newspaper where I would have been happy to start my career.

And then, I enrolled for my final fall semester of what I believed to be my college career. I signed up for a couple advertising electives. I went to class. I loved it. I got an advertising internship. I loved it.

I was graduating college with a relevant degree but without the portfolio needed to get the job I wanted — copywriter at an advertising agency. (that’s like Peggy on MadMen)

So, I worked at a newspaper for a hot second and then up and moved to Boston for grad school to get a master’s in advertising Note: you don’t need a master’s degree to work at an ad agency. At all. But, that’s a different conversation/post for a different time.

Then, I did what anyone would do. I started interviewing. Started working. And here I am. On full-time gig #3 in adland.

This is just one post in a series of what it’s really like to work in advertising today. Keep following along to see what other myths I can uncover for you. All gifs courtesy giphy. I do not own these images.

**You can totally be in advertising and still be a dance teacher, despite what anyone says.

Real Life MadWoman: A column of sorts.

When I tell people I’m a copywriter, they usually give me a strange look. They think I help people get the Ⓒ for products and such. I don’t. When I tell people I work in advertising, I usually get a less strange look. And a few questions about what I do, what clients I work on and whether or not advertising is like it is on TV. So, a column of sorts about what it’s like to work in advertising here and now.

A few of things have led to this idea:

First, the return of, and soon to be end of, AMC’s Mad Men.
Second, a column I read about taking nothing for granted when writing (assume your readers know nothing… not that they’re stupid, but that they nothing about where you’re coming from… I KNOW you’re not stupid.)
Third, knowing that writing what I know seems to work well for me.
(Fourth, it gives me an opportunity to use some sweet Mad Men gifs.)


Spoiler alert… real life advertising in 2015 is mostly not like Mad Men. Though, there are some similarities.

I know that this isn’t a revolutionary idea — to write about what advertising is now versus what’s depicted on TV. But, I figure I can add my two cents from here in Boston. So, I want to know, do you have any “is it really like that” questions? I’ll do my best to answer them. And I’ll do my best to share what I know to be true about the ad industry today.

Read about words this weekend [4.18]

BlogQuote_ROBERTFROSTIf you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you know I go by “@CopyKelly.” The reason? After originally signing up with a firstname-lastname username, I realized I should have something more durable, in case I get married and want to change my name. Since I’m a copywriter, and I totally l-o-v-e, love alliteration, I went with “CopyKelly.” Now, as a writer, it should come as no surprise that I also love words. So, lovely readers of my words, here are a few of my favorite reads about words that I came across this week.

1 | How “no” came to also mean “yes.” 

2 | How/why free writing is better than meditation.

3 | Making a daily practice of writing.

4 | A DIY writing retreat idea that I simply adore.

Happy weekend & happy writing to you!

How to not fail. My 100-day challenge in 357 days.

typewriter_CamusHave you ever embarked on a challenge, only to find that it took you more time, or effort, or money to complete?

I have.

In 2014, a friend and business owner, Scott, posted a 100-day writing challenge that his company, EmployTown, was hosting. Employtown is a reverse job board website where employers can bid on prospects. The writing challenge is one of Scott’s many ongoing social media campaigns, and I was thrilled to be a part.

“100 days of writing?” I thought to myself.

“I can totally handle that. I write everyday.”

I knew I could manage it all. Scott assured me it was OK if I missed a day or two. And I figured that was all I would miss. But that idea of grandeur was quickly squashed. Not only did it take me more than 100 days, it took me more than 1 year to finish that 100-day writing challenge.

So, Kelly… what you’re saying is you failed?

No. Failing would have been not completing the writing challenge at all. Failing would have been missing weeks at a time and not getting back in the writing game. Failing would have been defeat. And I don’t do defeat.

Here’s how to not fail… (aka, don’t do these things that I did when trying to complete my challenge.)

Don’t not sit down to tackle your challenge at the same time every day. Do set aside time to complete your daily challenge everyday. Pro tip: I found if you say you’ll do it first thing, you’ll do it first thing. And if you don’t, you still have all day to do it.

Don’t make excuses. Do make time. See previous note.

Don’t assume it’ll be easy. Even if you’re a personal trainer completing a fitness challenge, you’ll still need to put forth the effort to complete your challenge. 

Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you’re on vacation, be on vacation. Just don’t let those days off spiral into an uncontrollable number of days off.


I’ll be sharing some of my favorite writings from the 100-day writing challenge here soon. There are many posts about writing, marketing, social media and a lot of the other topics I deal with in my everyday life as a copywriter. AND. Now that I’ve tackled one writing challenge, I’m totally game for another one. Send ’em my way if you got em.

photo source.

One Little Word for 2015

I recently shared some links about the idea of choosing a word to guide your year. Did you click through? Have you chosen a word for the new year?

I’ve thought a lot about how choosing a word to guide my year. I’ve gone between active words and passive words. I’ve thought about adjectives and verbs. I’ve considered words that have two and three meanings.

At first I thought I had settled on a word that I’ve heard too many times over the past several months,

BRAVE.

But while I know it’s necessary to be brave, I’m not sure it’s a word that should define my year. If anything I’ve learned that it’s hard to be brave but sometimes even harder to be vulnerable. So, to choose BRAVE as my guiding word seems an unworthy challenge.

Instead, I thought I would choose a word that I can aspire to. A word that can help me focus my intentions on something positive and calming. A word that can be celebrated, danced and written,

GRACE.

noun: elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, oraction; favor or goodwill; mercy
verb: to favor or honor; to lend grace to
The Hemingway quote, above, “Courage is grace under pressure,” reminds me of how diamonds are made—coal under pressure. I like to believe that by fixating on grace I will find more courage for the everyday. And by showing grace toward others I hope to be more accepting, more patient (the latter being one of my mini-resolutions for the year.)
Did you choose a word for the year? Do you still need a word? Learn more here, here and here. I’d love to hear your word or your intention for the year.

Writing Letters Gets Me Every Time

011215_letterwriting_kellymcauley

 

Did you know that we are smack dab in the middle of Universal Letter Writing week? It’s true. The second week in January (January 8-14) traditionally marks this wordy week. It seems like there is a day or a week or a month to celebrate almost everything, so why not take a few days to write some letters.

I don’t know about you, but I do love to get real, actual physical letters in the mail. You know, the kind you have to go to the mailbox to get. The kind you get to tear open and read as many times as you wish.

I must admit I’m a few days behind in this year’s Letter Writing Week, but I am planning on sending some real, actual letters by the end of the week (more by the end of the month.) If you’re thinking you would like to as well, here are a few prompts to get you going.

011215_letterwritingprompts_kellymcauley

Now, sit down with a nice pen and some paper—or at your keyboard—and get to writing letters. You just never know how receiving a letter might change someone’s day. And, you might be surprised how sending one can be just as gratifying too.

P.S. Want one of those real, actual, mailed letters? Share your address with me now and watch your mailbox. (Then, if you would, send one in return!)

Starting over with a “clean slate”

Clean Slate history as a nautical termart by Tacita Dea 

A clean slate. It’s something we’re all talking about this first week of January. It’s a fresh start. A blank page. A new calendar year. It’s a way to start over on goals we may have fallen short of in the past. It’s a new beginning to old habits we want to change or new ones we want to create.

But a “clean slate” didn’t always mean to start anew. So what does “a clean slate” mean? Or, more accurately, where did the whole “clean slate” phrase come from?

Well, according to my highly scientific internet research, two sources (1 & 2) confirm that our whole “clean slate” obsession stems from an old nautical task. The watch keeper of the ship would record speeds, distances and more on a slate during his (or her?) watch. If there were no problems, the slate would be wiped clean at the end of his watch. Then, the new watch would “start over with a clean slate.”

Now, I don’t plan on climbing aboard any ships any time soon, but I like a clean slate as much as the next sailor.

Small Talk Gets Me Every Time

via Emily McDowell

 

Alternate title: 10 things to say when you’re not sure what to say.

Are you ever unsure of what to say? I am. And now, I’ve become acutely aware of when others have no idea what to say.

So, when you’re not sure exactly what a person is going through (trauma, strife, personal problems), here’s my advice on what to say (or not say.) Because talking to people is hard. And sometimes, we’re not all that good at it.

So, I say, don’t start with questions that you could probably guess the answer to. (i.e. “how are you?”)

Don’t start with the obvious questions you want to ask. (i.e. “what happened?”)

Don’t start with the statements that are only going to make the conversation more strained.

Do start with one of these 10 things to say when you’re not sure what to say.

  1. Say something boring. Like “how about this weather?” Or “Monday already?” “Gas prices have dropped, huh?”
  2. Ask about the latest and greatest. “How was your (insert most recent holiday/event)?”
  3. Start with a something superfluous. “Great shirt/necklace/tie. Where’s it from?”
  4. How about a recommendation? “Know where I can find a plumber/a dog/a great croissant?”
  5. Just be there. “Let me know if you want to grab lunch/coffee/a drink?”
  6. Talk about you. Tell the person a story, what you ate for lunch, how much you hate water polo. Something. Anything.
  7. Simply acknowledge the person is there. “Good to see you.” and then just walk away. Sometimes, less is more.
  8. Ask for that person’s expertise. “Can you help me with x/y/z?” Make that person feel useful.
  9. Talk about the place you are/activity you are doing. It could be work, the gym, the playground.
  10. Nothing at all. Perhaps mom’s rule about “having nothing nice to say” also applies when you’re unsure what to say.

Now go, say something, or nothing, to the person who might need to hear from you right about now.

“Curiosity Killed The Cat” Gets Me Every Time

“Curiosity killed the cat” is a phrase that almost got too close to home recently. See, Louise the Cat had a little visitor on the porch. (Check out the video for the details.) But thankfully the glass door was shut and it all ended in just some growling and hissing.

So, again, words being my thing, it got me thinking about that what the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” exactly means. Or more, where did it come from and when did it come into popularity. The internet hunt was on!

According to official internet source Wikipedia, it was first penned as “care will kill a cat” in a play from 1598, Every Man in his Humour, by Ben Jonson. From there, Shakespeare used a similar phrase in Much Ado, “What, courage man! what though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.”

And this early iteration of “curiosity killed the cat” was finally documented in the Brewer’s dictionary of Fable and Phrase in 1898:

Care killed the Cat.
It is said that “a cat has nine lives,” yet care would wear them all out.

But when did the modern phrase get brought into our lives? Well, no one can be quite sure, but according to written history, it seems as though it was first recorded in 1873 by James Allan Mair in A handbook of proverbs: English, Scottish, Irish, American, Shakesperean, and scriptural; and family mottoesOn page 34, the letter “I” after the phrase “Curiousity killed the cat. I.” implies that the phrase came from Ireland.

No matter where the phrase came from, to me it means to keep your curiosity under control, lest it get you in more trouble than you can handle. However, a little curiosity is a good thing, and as one retort to this popular phrase says, knowing might just make the cat, or you, OK…

Curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought him back.

These Seven Words Get Me Every Time

via

If you weren’t already aware, I love words. I’m not quite sure where the love stemmed from, but it’s one I can’t deny. I like to think part of it comes from my godfather. Growing up, he kept a dictionary where he marked every word he looked up. Needless to say his vocabulary is quite impressive.

Recently, I came across the visual artist and writer Khalil Gibran. Though born in Lebanon, he grew up in Boston’s South End and became quite the prolific poet, thinker and artist. In Sand and Foam, he writes,

We shall never understand one another until we reduce the language to seven words.

But who should decide those seven words?

Even if they (whoever they are) asked me to decide on THE seven words, I wouldn’t accept the task. Too big. Too great. Right here, I’ve already used more than 100 words. How could I get it down to seven? However, I thought I’d give it my best shot. Why not?

Here’s my seven words, no explanations. I just want to know your seven words.

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Please*
  4. Thank You
  5. Love
  6. Food
  7. Bathroom
  8. Sleep

Now get to it. Seven words and seven words only. In the comments.

*I’m going with the reasoning that body language could convey this as much as saying it means.