Writing With Purpose: An Interview with Lauren Cooper
A few years ago, Lauren Cooper hit the headlines with a profile from Business Insider as one of their 30 exciting creatives under 30.
At the time, the ad universe was buzzing over her work on the "First Ever Pinterest Yard Sale" for Krylon—an innovative project that won her a Cannes Titanium Lion and was recognized by the One Show, D&AD, Clios, and the Shorty Awards.
She hasn't slowed down a bit. Since then, she's worked with Johannes Leonardo, Barton F. Graf, and McCann New York, with projects for Adidas, Little Caesars, and Kettle One along the way. She remains one of the most exciting and promising young copywriters working today.
That's why we sat down with her: to talk about what it took to get where she is now. As it turns out, she wasn't always the ever-hustling, ever-succeeding creative superstar she is today. There was a time, not so long ago, when she wasn't sure what the future held. She told us all about it.
Read our full interview with Lauren below:
What does a copywriter do?
I think a copywriter is in charge of selling the idea. I always say: no amount of great writing can sell a bad idea, but bad writing can kill a great idea.
So as a copywriter. I've written everything from your standard TV commercial all the way through a fun song. Sometimes a jingle! I've also written the copy that goes on the back of a paint can before...and I've written words for the front of popsicles. It's pretty much anything that I can possibly write to sell my idea!
What's your favorite thing about being a writer?
My favorite thing about being a writer is the opportunity to affect how people feel.
So, you know, sometimes you watch a movie that came from a book, and you think, "Wow, this isn't as good as I imagined it." And it's because people's brains really do run away with words when they hear them. And as a writer, you get the chance to give them those words—that they then take away with their own minds.
What are some of the different projects that you've worked on?
Everyone knows this one project that we did for Krylon, which was called the Pinterest yard sale. And it was great, you know: paint companies don't always do the crazy fun work. This was like an addendum to a campaign that was already running, and they gave it to us like, "Oh, just come up with something here."
We started talking about it, and we found this real existing yard sale that goes right up the middle of the country for 700 miles. We brought Krylon there (which is a spray paint), bought a whole bunch of stuff from the yard sale, and redid it all using spray paint.
Since then, we did a really exciting project for Adidas, which was called Rejection Fuels Crazy. It's about a shoe that came out in the 90s, originally, but was rejected back then, and now it's coming back. And it's all about how rejection can be fuel for some people, and those people can ultimately be the most successful.
So we worked with Malik Sayeed to film all these different people who had been rejected in some way or another—whether it was in athletics or as performers—talking about how their rejection actually fuelled them to get better at their craft. And we actually had some really great sound bites from it. We shot that in the roller rink in Atlanta, which was incredibly cool.
How did M.AD play a role in getting to where you are now?
M.AD was really great. For me personally: I pretty much always knew that I was a writer...but I didn't exactly know what to do with it. The school really takes you and teaches you how to use your skills for ideas, which I think is a vital connection. Also, you know, every single person you meet at school...I can say this with full confidence: you will know them for the rest of your life.
It's almost more important than what you learn—the connections you make, who you meet. I still talk to some of my teachers. I had a creative director at one of my internships in Singapore, who I still talk to today! He's in Australia; there's no way I could possibly have known him otherwise. So for the network, it's great. But then also just teaching you how to turn your existing skills into something marketable.
What were you doing before you discovered M.AD?
My story is funny. I graduated from the University of Miami...and I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. I have never been a great student—or at least, I thought I wasn't a great student. And so it was a little hard for me to even get out of college. When I did, I had a minor in advertising.
Once I graduated, I was like, "All right, well, I liked my advertising classes...but don't really know anything about it". So I reached out to everyone I knew and asked, "Does anyone have any connections in any ad agencies?". I was aggressively looking for connections in the industry. And one of my friends (she was actually a friend of a friend) was like, "Yeah! I'm a receptionist at Crispin." So she got me in there as an intern.
But I was an Account Intern at Crispin, because that's the only job you can get without a portfolio. So I went there, and I was doing my Account Management internship. About 3 or 4 weeks in, I was standing in front of a copy machine watching 1000 copies come out and thinking, "This isn't right. It's not where I belong. I'm not supposed to be here. I'm supposed to be over on that side of the building with the creatives."
And so I thought, "Well, I'm already here...so let me just figure out how to move over!" I spent the remaining nine weeks of the internship aggressively trying to get myself into briefings. I would go every single day. And then I'd sit on brief, I would work all night, and then I would show up the next morning with ideas. I'd be like, "Here are my three ideas." Every single day they'd be like, "Cool...these are garbage." And throw them in the trash.
Then I would go do my account management job all day. I would work all night...come up with ideas...come back...and do it all again the next day. Nothing I brought ever lived beyond that first 10 minutes of the morning. But I still did it every single day! And finally, at the very, very end, I had a meeting with Chuck Porter, and he was like, "All right...obviously your writing is good. Your talent is there. I need you to go make a portfolio, and the way for you to do that is to go to Miami Ad School. So go away, come back in two years. I'll see you then."
That's how I got here.
Yeah, so that that was the amazing thing about Miami Ad School: for the first time in my life, I'm showing up, I'm easily getting good grades, I'm enjoying the classes... Beforehand, I was a little concerned. I was thinking, "Well, why would I go back to school, knowing that I don't really like traditional schooling?" I love to learn and love to read, but I hate...busy work, you know? But then I got [to M.AD], and I was like, "Oh, wait! This is the school I was supposed to be in all along. This is the kind of work I enjoy doing".
And then suddenly everything was easy. For the first time in my life, my teachers really liked me. I knew I was in the right place.
I always say to people, "You think you hate school, but the truth is that you just haven't found a subject that you like."
When you walked into the school, what was your first impression? Do you remember?
I didn't do the tour or anything beforehand because I'm an "I have to do it immediately before I chicken out" type of person.
But I remember one really funny thing. The morning of orientation, I woke up...and I was so nervous that I poured orange juice on my cereal. I was so scared.
And then you get it, you know. I went to the Miami school...everybody there looks cool and weird. And also, everybody there was already friends. So you get this feeling of like, "Oh, like maybe these people are going to be my friends." And immediately, you're walking through these rooms thinking, "here's a photo studio, and then here's the other cool place where you just make stuff." And you get this sense of, "if I can't succeed here. I don't know where I can."
I remember in my first couple of weeks feeling like I finally found my people. You can have any weird idea in the world, and somebody in that building will help you make it. Just really cool.
Also, my first week, I cried in video production class. Because the software seemed insurmountably hard, I was like, "I can't do it. I don't know how I'm going to do it. This is a required class...and I can't do it. So I'm obviously in the wrong place." Then the very next day, one of the teachers took us all to the bar just to hang out and meet each other. And I said out loud, like, "okay...I'm terrified of this class. Is anybody else feeling this?" Then one of the other students sitting right next to me was like, "Oh, I totally know what you mean. But I already know the software. So I can help you." So then he ended up coming over every day to teach me how to use it. And now we're still really good friends. So it worked out.
Tell us about one of your favorite experiences at the school.
One of my favorite, favorite moments about school is I've met some of my best friends there who are still my best friends to this day. I just don't know who I would even be without having known those people.
And I would also say, some of my favorite moments in school were when we would just go out and film stuff. Like one time, my friends and I filmed a music video on the beach on South Beach. I miss that: when you come up with an idea today, and you shoot it tomorrow. That was super fun. You just go out, put a tripod on the beach, and you make it work.
I think, honestly, my favorite memories were hidden in the pockets between our classes. You're suddenly around all these people who think just like you and believe a lot of the same stuff. And you get to go have fun with them.
I also personally really love to travel. So one thing that I really wanted to take advantage of when I went to school was the NoM.AD program. So I did a quarter in Berlin with Y&R...which was insane. Their work culture (and every other kind of culture) is so different than everything I had ever known. And then, from there, we went straight to TBWA in Singapore. Which, again, is a completely different culture. A completely different view of what a great idea is or how much work one should be doing every day. So I really got two super different, super unique, interesting, and fun experiences.
And then I did my last few quarters in New York, which is such a mecca for advertising and all different kinds of people. I really felt like when I got to New York. I was like, ready to hit the ground running.
What was your experience like when you left school?
I graduated in December. I will be honest: it's a hard time to find a job. In advertising in particular, just because of the way agencies are set up. So it took me a little while, but I knew that I had a strong book, and I knew that I had a lot of experience just from school. And so I really felt strongly that I should wait until I found the right job...not just take any job.
Then in April, I went to New York, knowing that there were two agencies (only two!) that I would ever consider moving to New York for. Because I didn't want to go to New York. But one of those agencies showed up at the review, and I chased the recruiter down. You're not supposed to do that. But I showed her my book, and we had a great talk. The very next day, I had a job offer.
In fact, during that week, I had five job offers. So for me, it was a really good experience. I also went to the portfolio reviews in LA and San Francisco because that's where I wanted to live, and I had a lot of bites there too.
So I would say the portfolio review really jump-started my career. If you treat that portfolio review like the serious professional event that it is, then I think you can really gain from it.
Find a Future in Copywriting
Copywriters are modern storytellers. They're the voice behind the brands you know and admire. Any campaign that touches a nerve...any beautiful ad that makes waves online...at some point, a copywriter helped nurture that idea to fruition.
It's not an easy job. But it's an immensely satisfying one. It's creative work for creative people.
Think you'd be a fit? Our copywriting portfolio program is designed to take from dreaming about that perfect career, to actually doing it. Here, you can hone your skills and your artistic sensibilities...all while surrounded by gorgeous, unconventional minds like your own. As so many of our grads say, M.AD is the place where creative misfits find their home.