Copy School Sydney 2017: the importance of ideas

Lights, camera, copy… Australia’s brightest creatives pass on their knowledge to the next generation of copywriters at Copy School 2017. MARTYN REYES sat in on the course.

By the end of advertising executive Ben Sampson’s guide on how to avoid “the short and tortured life of a copywriter”, one message resonated in the minds of those present: idea or die.

“If you don’t grasp this one thing – that before the writing there must come an idea – your life as a creative and a writer may be short and painful,” warned the creative director of The Monkeys.

Sampson was addressing 20 hopeful students at NewsMediaWorks’ bi-annual Copy School, a week-long crash course on copywriting. The series of workshops featured an impressive line-up of advertising creative directors, copywriters and news media professionals willing to pass on their knowledge and expertise.

Over the span of five half-days, students congregated at Fairfax Media’s Sydney office and were met with copywriting pro and Copy School convener, Phil Putnam. Students were also challenged to respond to a real-life brief, creating and presenting a 30-second radio ad by the end of the week.

Seated around the boardroom table were aspiring copywriters – some still studying at university, others already working in the advertising industry. The students came from various professional backgrounds and held contrasting titles.

There were a mix of digital marketers, copywriters, producers and junior creatives spread across all media channels, and some students travelled from Perth and Canberra, highlighting the prestige and value of this course.

NewsMediaWorks has been involved with Copy School long before a formal partnership was formed in 2014. Presently, the organisation acts to provide managerial and logistical support, with the overarching aim to foster quality copywriting across all advertising.

NewsMediaWorks not only acts as an industry body that promotes the cultural influence and commercial value of print and digital news media, but advocates the power of quality advertising and encourages creative storytelling – all of which the partnership with Copy School underlines.

This year’s line-up included some of the industry’s best senior creative talent and a newspaper editor. The tutors hailed from a string of well-established and prestigious agencies including Eardrum, The Glue Factory, The Monkeys, Disciple, Ogilvy, as well as a senior Sydney Morning Herald journalist.

A commonality revealed itself as each speaker presented: their passion and love for the industry and what they do. Every tutor at Copy School donates their time and effort, speaking volumes of their commitment to enriching and guiding the next generation of aspiring copywriters.

Throughout the week, Jonathan Kneebone spoke about the importance of finding one’s voice, Ralph van Dijk encouraged students to push the boundaries of radio advertising, and The Sydney Morning Herald’s education editor, Alexandra Smith touched on what makes good copy and how to adapt to its various forms. Tim Brown provided a guide on how to become a better copywriter and Rob Morrison taught the art of wordsmithing.

Roseanna Donovan and Rebecca Carrasco were both articulate, knowledgeable and quick-witted. As Roseanna attempted to race through her 50 years as a copywriter in 50 minutes, she touched on her experiences working in the male-dominated Australian advertising industry, equipping the female students in the room with valuable advice.

Rebecca revealed her secrets to what makes good writing. Her intelligence and industry knowledge shone as she discussed in-depth the concept of “ideas” and how to use them. The idea solves the problem and lives in the thought, she emphasised.

Copy School presents an invaluable opportunity to be mentored by the nation’s most talented industry professionals, and prepares students with the tools and knowledge to pave their own creative path.

Copy School is held annually in Melbourne and Sydney. Anyone interested in applying for Copy School 2018 can register here.

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