Small Business Marketing by Jillian Shaw Marketing, Advertising & Public Relations for the Small Business

All I Really Need to Know (about Copywriting) I Learned from Watching Dave Marinaccio

07.14.2010 · Posted in Advertising, Blogging, Copywriting, Life

The following is re-posted from a guest blog post on on July 2nd, 2010.

Today is my last day at the coolest job I’ve ever had.  I’m a copywriter for the largest advertising agency in the  Nation’s capital – for a few more hours, at least.

Two and a half years ago, I didn’t know anything about advertising.  I was working in a completely different field, bored with my desk job, when quite haphazardly a job posting for an advertising copywriter popped up in my inbox.  I thought ‘eh, why not’ and shot off my standard resume, un-tailored and untouched.

I never expected anything to come of it, but they called me for an interview.  I barely even remembered applying, and I Googled “advertising copywriter” just to figure out what the job was.  Even on my first day at LM&O Advertising, I didn’t really know what “copy” meant.  But that didn’t matter.

I had already blazed a trail of creativity in college as a playwright.  I’d worked as a political campaign manager, so I knew I could sell.  If I could sell politicians like they were saviors, I can sell anything, right?  How hard can copywriting be?

Little did I know, people spend years trying to break into advertising.  The competition is even worse as a creative. Grads who majored in it can’t get into even the smallest ad shops, and those folks know their stuff.  No OTJ training for them.

But book-smarts aren’t always that great.  Sometimes knowing exactly what has worked in the past means not trying anything new.  And sometimes a bad idea yesterday is a good idea today.  It just needs a defender who doesn’t know – or doesn’t care – that she may be fighting a losing battle.

That’s the first thing I learned from Dave Marinaccio when he hired me:  Take chances.

From my very first day, Dave encouraged me not to be afraid to have bad ideas.  Of course, it may be a genuinely bad idea.  In which case he encouraged me to have really thick skin, and not take criticism personally.

After getting used to using the word ‘concept’ as a verb, my new career as an ad creative gave me a chance to use my relatively dormant right brain.  It took me a while to stop worrying about the project budget, what’s technically feasible and other stuff that doesn’t matter to creatives.  Allowing yourself to think outside the realm of the possible can make what you thought could never happen into reality.

At LM&O I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing writers.  These people blow me away with the masterful stuff they come up with. From them I learned that practice makes perfect.  I’m fast developing my own creative genius in this area. Nothing feels better than getting accolades from the client for a brilliant concept or headline.

So how could I possibly leave this place that’s actually let little ol’ me write for big name clients, work on national TV campaigns and execute crazy, hair-brained (and successful) interactive campaigns, to try my hand as a freelance copywriter?

Probably the same reason a lot of other freelancers do it.  I’m a wife.  And a mom.  My husband got a job at a great company in the Big Apple that offered him about a gazillion times what I make.  How can I argue with that?

The  truth is, I’m incredibly lucky.  I’m moving to the world’s advertising mecca.  I have the freedom to work because I want to, not because I have to, which means I can take on more intriguing projects or take a gamble with a start-up.  And I have the incredible opportunity to spend more time with my awesome kids.

Still, leaving such a great job is tough.  LM&O is one of those companies that feels like home when you walk in the door.  I’ll miss seeing Sarah’s smiling face at the front desk every morning.  I’ll miss my office-mate’s expansive iTunes selection.  I’ll even miss Dave’s occasional dose of Trekkie-fied wisdom.  But I’ll take with me a lot of good experience, some fun times working on stuff like the LM&O holiday card, and friends that will hopefully stay in touch, and maybe even join me in New York one day.

I’m not ready to jump into a new endeavor yet, but I know I can’t just sit idly by while the career world rushes by me.  That’s why I’m pushing forward with new entrepreneurial projects, consulting, and publishing my own blog.  That brings me to my last lesson from Dave: Even if you’re doing it wrong, do something. If nothing else, you’ll learn something along the way.

Jillian Shaw Plomin is an advertising and public relations consultant to small businesses and political campaigns throughout the country. You can find more of her writing and marketing advice at

Jillian's Currently Reading: Guerrilla Marketing, 4th edition: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business
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