Andrew Jolliffe is a Strategic & Creative Copywriter, who has, for the past 25 years, written for brands such as Europcar, Coke Zero, Golden Tulip Hotels, and more.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Christ. I’ll try and keep this short. After being a pipe organ builder and firework technician, I persuaded Patrick Collister at Ogilvy London to make me a copy trainee. I will thank him till the day I die and carve his name into my epitaph for good measure.
Few CDs have the pluck to nurture stray puppies from other worlds. It makes sense. Life experiences are seeds for perspectives. You don’t find those online.
I spent six years there, did a spell at BBH under the dignified insight of Will Awdry, had my own agency, Andrew Jolliffe (few will remember it) then headed to Paris, the land of love, understanding, patience, crèmes brulées and bureaucracy.
I worked nearly ten years at Ogilvy Paris, did some good work, won prizes and pitches and a thousand kisses, and forever spoke my mind till they shot me in 2017 for being too expensive.
That’s what they said, anyway. But I’d made a list of everyone who’d already left, so when the drum-roll sounded I just hit a key, told them all and started freelancing. So far so lovely. Perhaps I shouldn’t say that.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My days are like pick n’ mixes but they all start the same. I wake up alone at 6.45 and say good morning, by text or just in my head, to people I care for but aren’t next to me. Even some who aren’t alive any more, like my Danish fiancée or my mum.
It’s not a God thing, just a need. Then it’s a few pages of a novel, a coffee overdose and a day. I’m head-down by 7.30. I do so much coffee that one day my fearful pancreas will actually slip out and tap me politely on the shoulder.
Tomorrow will be good. Finish a voiceover for an internal brand film (coffee, ironically) till about three, lunch with a writer miles better than me, back to a load of social post copy till nine and a glass of red with Marguerite, who runs a language school here.
I wrote her web copy for free so she owes me a few glasses of red. She’s the only person for whom I’ve ever worked for free. Her school has got through COVID and deserves to thrive.
The day after will be social post lines from sparrow’s fart till dusk punctuated only with coffee and a slice of quiche. No red till ten. I’ll be gagging by then. No company. Fine for a bit.
Head down or not, when feedback arrives I stop and look at it. It’s only polite to at least acknowledge its arrival. And after a brief change of subject, new thoughts seem to come from thin air for the job in hand. Drive forever in one gear and even the gearbox gets bored.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I might have just answered this. Yes, I’ve worked totally flexibly for three years and it suits. Only that way I can take on lots of work and cram lots of life round it.
Read on and you’ll see my reasons. I don’t even work in one place. I get insanely bored with mechanical routine so I move about. Kitchen table one day, hall desk the next, sofa, a mate’s kitchen, bedroom and back again.
There’s also the Anticafé co-working space in Republique run by a dream angel called Sara who brings me intravenous coffees, copies, madeleines, boiled sweets, couscous and nuclear smiles. Go if you can.
I work in Paris cafés only very now and again. Most people you see writing in cafés, a Pastis art-directed into the scene, do it just to try and look Parisian. I’ll have a Pastis with a mate when I’m done, thanks. There’s a place in the Marais, Chez Janou, that serves over 100. See you there at 11.
Don’t believe anyone who says working from home is the answer to everything. No way. For regular writing, yes, fine. But concepts and strategies take get-togethers. Horse-play. Paper ball-throwing. Fags out of windows. Walks in parks. By all means write them up solo but conceive in company. The only person that would dispute that is the Virgin Mary.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
It’s everything, but I don’t work to achieve it. I just have to let it happen. Here’s a thing. I’m only 59 and I’ve beaten cancer twice. Surgery, radiotherapy, counselling, the works. It might sound inwardly morbid but I get an inkling that it’ll probably come back, bite me and turn me into ash.
So I don’t waste time. I work about 55 hours a week, sleep for another 49 and the rest is a feast. I play the cello (interpret the word “play” as you may). Sing in the Sorbonne Choir. Feed the homeless. Compose (better that than decompose).
I’m still an advisor to an organ builder I worked for in Italy. And there’s a novel on the way, a joint thing with a French writer. Alternating chapters, her and me. It drifts and dives but that’s the joy. In French. Hard, but what the hell. And yes, I do “chill”. Lie on beaches. Stare out of windows. Everyone has to.
Life is a privilege, not a right. There are no rehearsals. Just remember that.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Yes, I’ve started yoga. Being a 2-metre string-bean of a person with muscles missing and a stomach that looks like a Metro map, I’m shit at it, but despite the humiliation I think it’s good for me. I’ve lived in my mind for too long, I think.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Here’s an incredible thing. I actually know some copywriters who only read books on copywriting. They’re the same copywriters who still think all brands should have one voice.
Christ. Look, copywriting is not a product. It’s a meaningful conversation between a brand and others. Like us humans, all brands have their own voices.
It’s why I read pretty much anything, from Shakespeare to cereal packets, but here are a few. George Tannenbaum, Rory Sutherland and Rich Seigel for advertising stuff. They make common sense out of irony, and that’s aplenty.
Anything by Roth, McEwan, John McGahern, Virginie Despentes and Peter Ackroyd. Podcasts like Stuff You Should Know, Marc Maron’s WTF and The Comedian’s Comedian. Any piece by Nick Bryant, the BBC’s man in NY. Sudhir Hazareesingh’s How The French Think.
I’ve read it three times and still really don’t know how the French think, so I’ll challenge you. And in French, Laurent Joffrin, editor of Libération. If you’ve never grasped socialism, he’ll tell you. You’ll see why the Brits get it so wrong.
Then there’s music. I’m into anything but I work to Bill Evans. The calming genius. And I still watch South Park once a week.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I hate gadgets because they inevitably stop working. I’m low-tech to the point of embarrassment. But yes, a few apps like Le Bonbon, Fooding and TooGoodToGo. Plus Plymouth Gin, Lillet, Nespresso Vivalto Lungo and the company of others.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
Two people. Bach. Such an incredible output, but with 20 children he clearly had even more time. And the pianist Bill Evans, who balanced harmony and self-destruction rather than simply work and life. Certainly not a wrong way to live, just a different one.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Enjoying is key to achieving. Do both, in equal proportions, as if today was your last on earth.
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