April 22, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Copy Director: Interview with Daniele Burich

Daniele Burich is copy director and co-founder of 106 Degrees, a creative services and strategy firm. With more than a decade of marketing and advertising experience under her belt, Daniele has worked with some great Midwest agencies specializing in health care, insurance, hospitality and foodservice, paper converting, construction … and a little bit of everything, really. Her responsibilities included concepting and writing copy for consumer and B-to-B print, TV, radio, direct mail, sales collateral, Web sites, banner ads, e-mail campaigns, brochures, sales kits, point-of-sale materials, trade show presentations and newsletters. Before advertising, Daniele spent her time in the marketing and public relations department of a leading performing arts center. While there, she learned the lyrics to many show tunes while also writing advertising and press releases, creating event marketing and discovering the finer points of media buying.

What's your title?

I’m not keen on titles, I must confess. I’ve seen too many agency relationships go bad because of adjective-based promotions. Reluctantly, I’ll say I’m a Copy Director.

How do you explain your job to your mother?

I said to my mom, “Remember those Wacky Packages you used to buy me when I was little? Well, they inspired me to become an advertising copywriter. And you were the catalyst. Great job, Mom.” Mothers always respond well to news that’s delivered with a compliment.

Alas, further description only confuses her, because I write for every medium and market. If I tell her I’m writing a website for a client one week, she tells everyone I’m a web writer. The next week, I’ll be shooting a TV spot on location, and she’ll tell everyone I write commercials.

The other week I was generating names for a soon-to-be-launched packaging product and it took me at least an hour or so to explain to her that everything I do falls under the giant copywriting umbrella. Perhaps I’ll get a designer to work on a fancy flowchart that really spells it out for her. What a lovely Mother’s Day gift idea.

How did you get started?

I started out as an associate working in the public relations and marketing department at a nonprofit performing arts center located in Green Bay. Because of the non-budget nature of nonprofits, the center asked me to create advertising and promotional materials in-house. I still remember one of my first promotional taglines for an upcoming symphony concert: Gentlemen Prefer Brahms. Somehow, I know the Wacky Packages writers would approve.

One day, as I was touting the merits of an upcoming performance on a local radio station, I clicked with one of the station’s other guests. It turns out he knew of an ad agency looking for a copywriter, and he recommended me for the job. I didn’t really have an impressive body of work to show yet, but that recommendation got me a two-day tryout at the agency. After writing a few ads and attending a brainstorming session or two, I guess I passed the grade.

What's your educational background? How did you get experience?

I was a Communication Arts major at UW-Green Bay (that pretty much covers all the advertising/marketing areas of interest).

What was your first job in the profession?

I was a junior copywriter at a full-service ad agency specializing in foodservice and retail displays.

What was your last project?

In this line of business, you pretty much juggle several projects/clients at once. I just wrapped up a website for one client. I wrote a last-minute radio spot for another client. And I revamped a brochure for another client. For those of us with ADD, advertising is the field of dreams.

Describe a typical day (or week) in your life when you're working.

Just when I think it’s going to be a slow week, the phone rings and the hot projects (with even hotter deadlines) get dropped on my desk. When things are busy, I’m up all night writing ... it feels like I’m still in college sometimes. Of course, when the jobs are finished and the adrenaline stops flowing, you crash pretty hard for a few days. Then you start all over again. It’s exhausting but always interesting.

How do you sharpen your skills continually?

I look for inspiration by reading a mix of trade pubs and magazines from just about every genre. Keeping track of trends is key, so I like to visit sites like to stay current.

What advice do you give to those who want to join the profession?

Don’t take criticism personally. Also, the client isn’t always right, and it’s up to you to tell him/her when they’re going down the wrong strategic path.

A series of questions:

What motivates you most about your job? What do you hate about your job?

Learning new things about products and clients. It’s great for trivia. I’m not so fond of making copy revisions. Once I’m done writing it the first time, I hate going back to make changes.

Favorite job to date? Nightmare job that still haunts you?

It’s a toss-up between writing for Kotex (really) and writing for the performing arts center. I seriously enjoyed those accounts. My worst job was writing catalog copy for a billion crispy snacks. How do you make each one sound different and delicious? Egad!

If you could go back in time and meet your pre-professional self, what would you tell her?

Don’t edit yourself when you write. No idea is as ludicrous as you think it is, so give it a shot.

What's your motto?

If I told you, I’d have to bill you.