In 2016, I was having lunch with European marketing magnate and world class value investor, Norman Rentrop.
Norman is remarkably down to earth, so you might not take him for a billionaire… UNTIL you spend a few hours with him, observe his insatiable curiosity about all things and take in his incisive insights about business and life that puts mere mortals like me to shame.
Anyway, Norman asked if I had any ideas for scouting copywriting talent in his native Germany and several other European countries where his companies have a presence.
The first thought that leaped to mind was to start his own writer’s guild in the mold of the American Writers and Artists Institute.
This AWAI bookalog mailed for FOUR solid years and launched more copywriters into the business than you can shake a stamp at.
This is like having your own sporting franchise “farm team,” but it takes some lead time before this approach turns out enough lean and mean ad writers.
Then I remembered the famous copy test which J. Walter Thompson ran as full page ads in the 1980s. It was the brainchild of the international bestselling thriller writer, James Patterson, then a copy chief at JWT. I learned all about in an interview I did with mystery writer, Chris Grabenstein, one of the first candidates hired through this remarkable copy test.
People from all over the advertising world showed up in the comments, before my blog went into a long hiatus. Mea culpa!
“Have you ever wondered how you could get a job as an advertising copywriter? Have you ever wondered if you could get a job as an advertising copywriter? This is your chance to find out. With this copy test. Eight entertaining and involving assignments that should stimulate and challenge you to do the thing you do best. Write.”
This was the opening of an unusual ad.
In 1984, the mega ad agency, J. Walter Thompson, ran this full page copy test in the New York Times, entitled, “Write If You Want Work.”
The candidates who took them up were given eight unusual writing assignments.
My favorite is #6.
“You’ve heard the story about the man who made a fortune selling refrigerators to Eskimos. In not more than 100 words, how would you sell a telephone to a Trappist monk, who is observing the strict Rule of Silence? (But he can nod acceptance at the end.)”
Ten people passed and joined JWT’s 85 member creative team.
Sorry, neither I, nor perhaps even JWT, have the winning submissions to this unusual series of exercises. Just reading the test will uncork your creative thinking bottle.
I’m not sure if Norman put any of these to work, but I shall ask him next time we meet on Zoom over a meal.