10 in 10: What I’ve learned from a decade at Wyatt International.

Steve Jenkinson, our Creative Strategist and Copywriter takes us on a journey through time and space as he reflects on the last 10 years – and the lessons he’s learned along the way. 

“When did that happen? One minute, you’re a fresh-faced, rakishly handsome 29-year-old copywriter with a slavish devotion to grammar and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the legendarium of JRR Tolkien. Then next, you’re a statesmanlike-yet-still-rakish 39-year-old with a job title containing more syllables than you know what to do with.

I remember the day I joined. It was 2013. April. The world hadn’t ended yet – ‘permacrisis’ and ‘COVID-19’ were yet to find their way into the OED. The world was younger, simpler – but [insert obnoxious William Blake reference here] with time comes experience. And it’s about time I stopped blathering on and did what this post promised: 10 things I’ve learned over the last 10 years…

1. I know nothing. Like it should be.

When you’re a young copywriter, wearing a scarf indoors and dropping names like you’re mates with Jacques Derrida, it’s easy to see the value in your abilities. But what I’ve learned to be the most valuable thing you can bring is – just to namedrop Socrates, too – that you know nothing. You’re a fresh pair of eyes. An empty head. A useful idiot. Coming at every challenge with no preconceptions means there’s nothing weighing you down, so you can combine your word nerdery and Patented Ideas Generator™ with the objective idiocy to create truly original work. I learned that here. Then I unlearned it again.

2. There’s no boring in B2B.

Talking of preconceptions, one of the biggest in our industry is that B2B is some kind of impenetrably complex and – dare I say it – boring marketing sectors. But getting under the skin of clients’ brands over the years has taught me it’s anything but. It’s opened my eyes to what really goes into the cities around us, the technologies shaping our future, and the people and products that make life possible every day. I never learned that back when I was making up stuff for fizzy drinks and cereal brands.

 

3. All the facts fit to create awkward silences at parties.

One of the joys of what I do in my stream-of-syllables job role is learning facts. It might be about how the UK’s freeze-thaw cycles have shaped our urban environment as much as our landscape. Or it might be about giant squid. They all go into my junkyard of a brain, to be recited as factoids at all the dinner parties I don’t go to, because I am hugely socially awkward.

4. Machiavelli was wrong.

To be a copywriter is to be somewhat…mercenary. We write for money. Now, any bored literature student who endures Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ will tell you that you can’t rely on mercenaries for anything, as loyalty can always be bought. But that’s not the case here. Over the years, as life changed increasingly quickly, Wyatt has been a constant. Somewhere I’ve felt like I belong, where I’m supported and can grow. And it’s where all my stuff is!

 5. Oh, be nice.

Someone, who wasn’t a leading figure in Italian Renaissance political thought, once gave me an important lesson: you can do all the award-winning work you can stuff into your portfolio, but if you’re unpleasant to work with, that’s all you’ll be remembered for. So, be nice. Which is fitting, given that one of our values at Wyatt International is ‘Respectful’ –that’s part of the reason why the team here is so great to work with.

 6. Put method in your madness.

Part of the pleasure/pain dynamic (let’s not dwell on that) of being a creative in the agency business is navigating between leftfield ideas and commercial common sense. It can be like forcing two magnets together at the same pole, using sheer bloody-mindedness to stop them flying off and taking someone’s eye out. But introducing a little methodology into things allows you to figuratively twist one of them so they attract – or, abandoning this metaphor entirely, to put process into product. Without banging on about the 4E method (read more about that here), it’s this as much as hare-brained creativity that’s been behind the campaigns I’m most proud of from the last decade.

7. Expose yourself.

Copywriters tend to be an introverted bunch. We scribble away in our hobbit holes, emerging only to paw at tasty ideas and snarl at unfamiliar account handlers. But over the years of immersing myself in clients’ challenges, I’ve seen the wisdom of emerging from the burrow and getting stuck into workshops, focus groups and assorted chats. Because when you get out of the bubble you see what matters to clients, and their customers, and do the work that delivers.

8. Push it (real good).

If I had a pound for every time I’ve been told to ‘push’ a concept, I’d have long given up this career to live in a solid gold house with a parliament of trained, biomechanically augmented rooks as my butlers and valets. But this isn’t about pushing the product – Wyatt has helped me push myself. I’m always up for learning new stuff, especially if it comes with collecting letters after my name. Recently, I had the pleasure (and panic) of gaining DMI Specialist certification in digital strategy and planning. Which was nice. Between that and conferences, summits, peace talks (not really) and the everyday occurrence of (indeed) pushing the work, I’ve seen my career shape up before my very eyes.

9. No one’s ever really gone.

Talking of careers, mine wouldn’t be in the shape it is right now without all the people I’ve worked with here – past and present. Happily, some of those past are also present; people really do come back to Wyatt after exploring other pastures. But I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the smartest, funniest, most talented and (crucially) well-organised people in this industry. So…you know…uh…thanks, you guys.

10. To check out Daft Punk’s new single “Get Lucky” if you get the chance. Sound of the summer.

Finally…I mean, come on. It was omnipresent back in 2013 and, even if it’s the aural equivalent of putting a metal bucket on your head and banging it with a spanner in 4/4 time, it’ll always take me back to being that 29-year-old opening the door to the wide world of Wyatt International, 10 years ago. I wonder what the next decade will hold…”

We’re always on the lookout for great talent to join us and see what the future holds. Explore our latest vacancies, or drop us a line on work@wyattinternational.com

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