Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency (Mad Men episode title)

Daunted. Excited. Nervous. Unsure. These are just a handful of emotions I felt as I arrived at Purple Creative, 117 Farringdon Road, London. I was about to embark on an idea I had conjured up around my 19th birthday, working as a copywriter in advertising.  Whether it was my addiction to Mad Men, or just pure naivety, I believed I could be successful in this industry, and now I had an opportunity to get a real taste of advertising life. As I walked through the doors for a two week placement, I can honestly say I was bricking it…

A warm welcome and an introduction to the team were quickly concluded, and it was straight into the action – this was a very busy week for Purple. I got set up on a Mac, and it was all systems go. I was immediately put on a task of, in effect, trying to break the new website Purple had designed for Glenfiddich: the Glenfiddich Gallery. This was a chance to show my attention to detail, something I had tried to perfect throughout my history degree. I quickly picked up on a few minor issues, mainly just hyperlinks. It wasn’t the environment I had imagined (sitting drinking fine Scotches and coming up with innovative ideas to change a brand’s fortunes!). It was fast-paced, busy, loud and I can honestly look back and say it put me in the right mind-set for being a creative.

By the end of the first day I was working on editing copy for whisky labels, helping to cut down packaging text on the carton and bottle for the Glenfiddich 12 & 15 Year Olds. I left work feeling good, but very tired after my first day of real work.

By the second and third day, I was getting tested. The work I’d been aspiring to be given for many years, come up with tag lines for a product. Again, it was for Glenfiddich, which was perfect as I love single malt, so was extra keen to build up my knowledge of the whisky industry, the founding family and the brand before I jumped in. So I researched, researched and researched some more.

I was also involved with a design briefing where the designers discussed what routes they’d be taking for beauty shots for each product. This inspired me to think of further ideas that I knew would have a bit of something about them, a bit of ‘oomph’.

Throughout the week I would receive more little projects to quickly work on, helping Jamie, Head of Copy at Purple, in the huge piles of work he had stacked up waiting to get through, whilst remaining on the tag line brief. I quickly learned that at Purple you don’t do things by half, you focus all your attention on that one thing to make sure it’s perfect. These side tasks included; briefly working on packaging text for a Pilsner Christmas beer, collating the full site copy for Glenfiddich Gallery and much more.

I felt integrated into the work force, which was as good a feeling as you can have for your first week in work. This familiarisation improved when we went to a pub for a drink after work (or drinks in my case!) to end the week.

By the second week, I was exuding confidence, and was comfortable with any task Jamie set aside for me. Straight back into the work I’d enjoyed during my first week, writing tag lines – this time for Glenfiddich 21 Year Old. I was quickly coming to the serious realisation this was something I wanted to do for the long-term. The sense of accomplishment felt when you know you’ve come up with a clever tag line, something sharp but witty, is a great feeling. Working with Purple also taught me about company guidelines, and how specific they can be, such as how much humour and what kind of wording can be used. Of course, that still didn’t stop me writing down the silly ideas I conjured up, something Jamie couldn’t discourage throughout my time at Purple!

I was delighted by the work I was getting. I was contributing ideas towards big brands and it was a great feeling, one I hope to capture again very shortly. But no time for reminiscing, another big client has asked Purple for their expertise. Castrol…yes Castrol. It was a big deal. I was asked by Gary, Creative Director, to create competitor profiles, and again I was surprised at the faith installed in me. The gargantuan task at hand begun: gathering company logos, branding examples, and what main advertising tools they used. One thing I learned was the amount of work that Purple has to go through to really get under the skin of the brand, especially for a new client.

Another thing that firmly hit home was how much Purple care about their work. For them, it’s all about pride and achieving perfection. I felt hugely privileged to be working here, and it taught me a lot about the industry, as well as myself. I learned I could work at speed, while remaining precise in my wording, a technique I hadn’t fully grasped until this point. Tied in with this, was a newfound grammatical skill and focus when proofreading work.

Overall, I felt I got everything I wanted, and more out of this work experience. I don’t know many work experiences where the intern gets to work on live jobs, and chat regularly with the Head of Copy to discuss their ideas.

Thanks to everyone. I had a kick-ass time.


Tom McGivern


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