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Senior Copywriter: My Gig

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What’s it like to create copy for advertisements? We asked Karen Hutchinson, a San Francisco based senior copywriter at the digital agency Tribal DDB, about her decade-long experience in the advertising profession. Here’s what she said:

BC: What is your typical day like?

Hutchinson: My days are not typical, no matter how much I wish they were. Things change so much—sometimes by the hour. Any given day will be a combination of meeting with clients to present work, meeting with our account folks and project managers to get late-breaking updates, grinding my teeth over late-breaking updates, writing copy, and keeping up with the latest advancements in baby animals on

But the heart and soul of my job is really coming up with ideas, either by myself or brainstorming with other creatives. The downside is, sometimes you just don’t have them. The upside is, if you do and they’re good, it’s really, really fun. And when you work in the digital space like I do, you’re encouraged to come up with stuff no one has done before.

BC: How’d you get where you are?

Hutchinson: I totally fell into it. I majored in art history and went on to a flourishing career in the food service industry. A friend was working at an ad agency that was just starting to do online stuff—mostly Web sites. Since I had done some journalism and editing, he thought I’d be more adept at handling large amounts of text than a traditional headline-centric copywriter would be. So, I came in at the beginning of the dot-com boom in ’96 and literally learned on the job. I feel very lucky because that would never happen today—the industry has grown up.

BC: What the best thing about your job?

Hutchinson: I love the variety of stuff I get to do. I truly don’t know exactly what my next project will entail—in a good way. In the last year, I’ve interviewed some of my favorite chefs, researched Loch Ness and other wonders of the world, worked on a video shoot starring real people, and created a wine pairing program that works on your cell phone. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with an eclectic mix of clients—from PlayStation to Visa to Target. And right now I’m working with one of my best friends on a secret, creepy project, which is great, because I’m kind of a ghoul.

BC: What don’t you like?

Hutchinson: I never have enough time and rarely have all the information I’d like to have. It’s nobody’s fault—it’s just the crazy nature of the industry. But I find myself really envying people who truly get to delve into the depths of any given subject. It’s a bit like making bread without having enough flour—you might be able to pull it off, but you can’t help but think about how great it could have been.

BC: How much money do you make?

Hutchinson: Let’s just say I make good money. And when I recall how I used to wait tables and do other sorts of “real work,” I think I’m ridiculously overpaid. But when you’ve been doing something for over ten years and it hasn’t turned out too horribly, you feel like you’ve earned the right to advance beyond the ramen lifestyle.

My Gig is a series of stories about different careers. Trying to figure out what to do when you grow up? My Gig, which provides a quick glimpse into a person’s work life, may inspire you!


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