This week, we’ve got Oxfordshire copywriter Dylan Glover. He runs Town Mouse Country Mouse, a mini copywriting agency with wife Laura that’s pulled some decidely un-mini accounts. Like Porsche, Bombay Sapphire and Krispy Kreme.
I didn’t take the ‘traditional’ route (whatever that is). I funded my student life by working at a rock climbing centre in Stoke Newington. A PR agency hosted a product launch at the centre, and I got chatting to the events manager.
For some reason, the PR agency decided to take me on as a very junior account exec. I was dreadful. But they liked my press releases. So I just wrote press releases for all their clients. Eventually I was made redundant, and bluffed my way into an in-house writer role at British Airways.
Had a great couple of years there, seeing how a brand works from the inside. Met a brilliant art director, we teamed up, bluffed a team role at MRM and that set us on our way. JWT, LIDA, M&C Saatchi. Then freelance, and now set up as a copywriting agency with my wife Laura – Town Mouse Country Mouse Copywriting.
Anything you’ve done in the past that’s helped what you do now?
I think all writers bring their past into their present writing. Whether it’s a half-remembered song lyric that helps spark a headline, or tapping into experiences they’ve had to give a story some resonance. Teaching climbing to kids on Saturday mornings was probably a good way to try and get simple (but important) messages across to an audience with limited attention spans. That’s helped with client presentations to this day.
You seem to be a double act. How does it work?
There’s no set ‘formula’. When we get a new brief, we decide between us who will be writing the bulk of the copy based on our previous copy experiences, and if we’ve got heritage with the client. We proof each other’s work, and occasionally collaborate on projects that require more of a conceptual edge – like coming up with company names or brand slogans.
There’s a nine-year age gap between us, which means Laura’s creative and cultural touch-points are very different from mine. She also went and did a proper advertising degree. So our writing styles, and how we instinctively respond to briefs, are definitely not aligned. I think this gives us much more potential for creative ‘alchemy’, and more interesting writing.
You’ve got some great clients. How do you attract them?
The connections we’ve made working at big London agencies have definitely helped. Lots of ‘suits’ have gone client-side, and sometimes they remember our times together in the trenches. Word of mouth is still the most fruitful way to get work. Attracting big clients is extremely rare, but we’re occasionally asked to work on fast briefs by clients we’ve met while working in agencies.
Do you work exclusively from your office or do you get out and work on site much?
It’s a mix. We’ve made a conscious effort this year to try and attract more remote clients. Easier said than done. And as nice as working from home can be, I still enjoy the energy of the capital, and the agency experience. Just not every day.
What was your finest hour?
Writing a Porsche press ad. I had proper imposter syndrome at the time, being handed the keys to work on something that would be pored over by petrolheads and copywriters alike. I think it’s the ‘1980s car poster on kids’ walls’ thing. Not award-worthy, or even my best writing. But it means the most to me.
Any bum notes? You’re among friends here
Nothing too bad, or worth repeating! What I’ve learned from operating outside the agency world, and dealing directly with clients, is the importance of ‘account’ management. Remote working for small clients means you rarely get anything resembling a thorough brief. And with limited budgets, you often get only one chance to really crack it. So I’ve had one occasion (or two) when there’s been miscommunication, the copy hasn’t been well received, and I’ve had to pull out the stops to get the project back on track.
What’s your favourite type of client and work?
The small businesses. There’s nothing better than seeing the little ‘spark’ flash across the owner’s face when you bring their ‘baby’ to life in a few well-chosen words. I also love writing brand guidelines and tone-of-voice projects, because you’re really getting under the bonnet, and finding out what makes a business tick.
Any good copywriting bibles you can recommend?
Nope. I know I should read more. There are some brilliant copywriters out there, and their tomes seem very well regarded by fellow copy monkeys. But the ones I’ve picked up always read like homework. Instead, I’d recommend things like the D&AD Copy Book, or Taschen’s Advertising from the 50s/60s/70s. (When ‘that’ll do’ copy, wouldn’t do.) Seek out some Tim Delaney ads too.
Any tips for newbie copywriters?
Looking around, it seems like it’s never been easier to contact some very talented writers. Copywriters are a pretty good bunch, so my advice would be to pester as many of them as possible. The ‘traditional’ agency route is no longer the only option (but any experience is valuable), so perhaps try asking for a brief from one or two wordsmiths. Who knows where it could lead?
And any tips for clients?
Yes. Don’t go to agencies. The model is outmoded and expensive (that’s a joke, I still love and respect those friends of mine who’ve chosen the agency path).
My advice for prospective clients is to be prepared to have the price conversation. Just don’t let it be the only thing you base your decision upon.
Great. Finally, what did you have for breakfast today?
Porridge with molasses. Sounds horrible. Tastes like Christmas pudding. Keeps me sharp, on the edge, where I gotta be…