The secret to doing well in the creative department? Tend bar and study psychology.
November 7, 2008
This week and next I have the privilege of speaking at a pair of learning institutions here in Chicago. The first engagement is with an advanced marketing course at DePaul University. The second has me addressing the class at Chicago’s Portfolio School. While the former deals with marketing theory the latter is about getting a job in a creative department. Both very useful and exciting classes and I look forward to helping them. One of my favorite activities is presenting ideas and/or work to students. I never think of it as a homework assignment.
However, preparing for these engagements reminded me, once again, of some advice my father Larry Postaer (Founder, Chief Creative Officer, RPA) once gave me about advertising study.
Number 1: “Know a little about a lot.” The perfect argument for a Liberal Arts education is also applicable to copywriting. We will have hundreds of clients in our careers and few of them from the same fields. Best to have working knowledge in as many areas as possible. This was profoundly good advice before entering college and then the workforce. With technology creating new categories of business every day, the notion has only gotten stronger.
Number 2: “Work in a bar.” Pops believed that attending to customers (particularly in a saloon) would teach one how to understand people’s wants and needs better than any classroom. The drunk and wanna-be-drunk are often hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Figuring out which, and how best to deal with it, is invaluable to an aspiring copywriter.
Given I got this advice during College, my father also recommended taking psychology courses in lieu of marketing ones. The reasons were much the same as for working in a bar. Learn how people think. Learn what makes them tick. Learn how to persuade them.
In his opinion, Psych 101 and creative writing were what made a good copywriter. That and working in a bar. I’d argue to the freshman class of 2009, it’s still a good plan.