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Alumni Spotlight Drew Shields

Senior Copywriter at Giant Spoon

#AlumniSpotlight The Creative Circus graduates the most sought after creatives in the industry. Take a moment to read about the lives, careers & personal stories of some of our fantastic alumni.

Drew Shields – Senior Copywriter at Giant Spoon
Creative Circus Alumnus – Copywriting (2014)

alumni spotlight drew shields big spoon agency

Advice to the Graduating Class:

Stop reading and digesting everything put out by Adweek, AdAge, Comm Arts, CMYK and every awards show. You soon realize a lot of this is a distraction. You should know what makes an idea great by now. Spend your time better by absorbing all of culture. Movies, TV, music, art. Their creators are your tools when you’re crafting work in the real world. Get to know the new ones, the big ones, the ones that haven’t been used correctly yet.

Advice to the Incoming Class:

Read and digest everything put out by Adweek, AdAge, Comm Arts, CMYK, and every awards show. You’ll know what’s been done and what you have to do next.

What do you wish you knew while in school?:

This is probably the last time a lot of you will ever be in school. Take more classes which interest you. Scare you. The ones which you don’t think will help you.

What does The Circus mean to you?:

A nomadic tribe of weirdos traveling the country and delighting everyone they meet. In a way, like an actual circus.

Describe a monumental, light bulb moment for yourself while you were at Circus:

When I learned that creative directors will never look at your entire book, or even in the order you think they will. Now I get it. Some weeks it’s nigh impossible for even creatives to get meetings with their creative directors. Their time is tight and they’re stretched thin. As a non-employee, looking to enter the industry as a junior, CDs often do not have 10 minutes to digest your book in full when they have 15 other candidates to go through in their inbox. Keep your website lean and mean. Put great stuff at the beginning, middle, and end. For the CD who only clicks on your last project and your About page, make them remember it. You never know what will actually resonate or be the work which gets you that first interview.

What’s the most meaningful project you’ve worked on:

I was fortunate enough to work for a pro bono client, Best Friends Animal Society. It was my first experience building a campaign for of very little money and out of primarily pre-existing assets. I also realized that even as just a writer, my design input mattered: we ended up hiring a design group I suggested because they were the right fit and I had followed them on Instagram for a few years.

Favorite project you’ve ever worked on:

I can’t pick a favorite child of mine. Overall, I enjoy any time I’m on production, and not for the faux-Hollywood elements of it (the director-type chairs they park in video village are actually very uncomfortable). Production forces you to solve several creative fire drills within a very limited window. You don’t have time to concept anymore; you’re burning money and losing daylight. Shoot from the hip and go with that gut opinion you’ve meticulously cultivated at Circus.

Best advice you’ve ever been given:

Via Liz Levy, my former CD (and another Circus alum!). I’m misremembering the exact quote which was passed down to her, so paraphrasing: “As a brand, a third of people will always hate whatever your create. Another third will love it unconditionally. Your job is to speak to the people in the middle, the on-the-fencers, and change their minds from nothing to something.”

What do you love most about being a copywriter:

Discovering all the non-apparent things that are asked of a copywriter on a daily basis and being surprised at which ones I’m actually good at.

For someone who doesn’t have a clue about what a copywriter does, well, what does a copywriter actually do?

A copy writer wears many hats. Often, a copywriter does no writing. Sometimes, a copywriter just listens to stock music cues until his ears bleed. A copywriter is there to be useful, to be a project’s best friend, watering an idea and cultivating it in client meetings, and once sold, overseeing it with a producer to keep the kernel of its original brilliance still intact.

What advice would you have for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps and be a copywriter:

Sometimes the job can be less than glamorous. But, approach every ask, no matter how big or small with two goals: convince people to keep reading and remove ambiguity. There’s several ways to keep people reading to the end: be flowery, be bare, be succinct, take people on a journey. The proper approach depends on your medium and your audience. The second component sounds highly technical and dull, but as the writer,  sometimes you might be the person in the room who knows proper grammar. Grammar exists for a reason. It’s a set of rules which—when used correctly—forces readers to read your copy in its particular, intended way. If you don’t fight for proper line breaks, em dashes, and oxford commas, no one else might. When someone pushes back on your high-and-mighty linguistic snobbery, pass the buck to the AP Stylebook. It’s the arbiter of clean and clear. Their style is already read by every newspaper reader in America. Of course, the exception to my long-winded rule: read the room. Don’t be the creative who uses “whom” correctly if looking pretentious isn’t part of the brief. Rephrase, restructure, retool your writing to keep your cool and make sure the audience reads the copy only one way.

Thoughts on advertising:

The greatest thing about advertising is if we mess up on the job, nobody dies. The worst part about advertising is if we mess up on the job, nobody dies. Put another way, we work in a great, fun industry with some of the most awesome people around. But when the late nights, endless revisions, and weekends roll around and you ask what it all means, find that component of the work that’s just for you. Make the thankless fight worthwhile and rewarding, because no teary-eyed family in an emergency room is going to shower you with adulation for saving their radio spot.

Work examples:

Nissan: Looking to highlight Nissan’s rich heritage, we gained unprecedented access to the hundreds of cards housed by the Nissan DNA Garage in Yokosuka, Japan. We traced the lineage of two of Nissan’s flagship cars, the Fairlady/Z and Skyline/GT-R, for a pair of print ads, and created a treasure trove of digital assets for our social team to work through over the next couple years.

nissan ad creative circus alumni

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary: BFAS is the nation’s largest no-kill animal organization. Tapping into the Sanctuary’s location within the “golden triangle” of National Parks, our campaign sought to boost tourism and volunteer enrollment by treating it like another can’t-miss nature destination. We created television spots voiced by SNL’s Cecily Strong and a variety of adaptable illustrations for national print, digital, and merchandise.

best friends animal sanctuary advertising

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