My first real job in advertising was at The Leith in the early 1990s.
Then, as now, it ruled the roost as the premier creative shop in Scotland.
Which is not to say that there weren’t rival agencies giving them a run for their money. Faulds, 1576, and Marr Associates were all producing award-winning work regularly. Creatively speaking, Auld Reekie was firing on all cylinders.
Proof could be found every Friday evening. That was when every agency creative, account director and strategist worth their salt would meet in the Cumberland Arms for the weekly gathering of the tribes.
The place would be packed to the rafters. If you opened the main door anytime after six, a minimum of three punters would tumble out. Such was the seething mass jammed therein, on colder evenings, of which there were many, the heat emanating from the place would instantaneously steam up the lenses of any new arrival wearing spectacles. Once inside you’d squeeze, twist, “hello” and “hiya” your way toward the bar, a journey of some fifteen feet that would take upward of twenty minutes to navigate.
It was worth it. Finally armed with a hard-earned pint or glass of vino, you’d be free to discuss everything and anything with anyone and everyone. Imminent pitches, new work, old work, good work, crap work, moves, gossip, banter, outrage, and slander, all were talked out with great animation far into the evening, or until accumulated intoxication rendered conversation unintelligible.
Evenings such as this taught me that where there are beer and wine to be had in friendly environs, the will to do great work will quickly become evident.
So it proved last week when I attended my first Copywriters Unite gathering at The Cut Bar in London. The brainchild of Vikki Ross, Copywriters Unite does exactly what it says on the tin.
For three hours, close to 40 copywriters of every stripe came together to put the world of advertising copy to rights over a beer or two. Young and old, fresh-faced and battle-hardened, they came from near and far to find common cause in a shared passion, and to maybe earn a sympathetic ear for those times when it’s just you and a cold keyboard at seven in the evening with a traffic manager tapping their feet outside your door.
The fact that I could just descend from out of nowhere and slip seamlessly into the chats, rants, woes, and laughs spoke to the universal nature of the topics: The thrill of a great headline, the buzz of a wonderfully turned piece of prose, and the urge to share a new bit of nonsense or bizzaro source of inspiration.
It was ever thus because it’s what we do. It’s our craft. The fire behind flame that keeps us all sane.
And as long as it never goes out, we’ll be okay.
We’ll always find a new TV spot or poster to cheer, to raise a glass to, and say, “I wish I’d done that.”
Advertising has changed irrevocably since my days in Edinburgh.
The nature of what we do, how it’s delivered, and where it’s seen, is now completely different.
But the drive to create something fresh and different, and, just as importantly, the desire to talk about it over a beer?
That hasn’t changed one bit.
For more information on CopyWriters Unite get-togethers up and down the UK, follow @vikkirosswrites and @copywritersunite on Twitter