I thought I was a long-serving, long-suffering freelance copywriter, but Mark Foster was doing this stuff before people had bathtubs in their houses. Today, he’s a copywriting tutor, children’s author, pig farmer, and still a fine copywriter.
1983. After realising that being a land surveyor wasn’t a route to fame and glory, I signed up to the Watford Copywriting course.
Rubbing shoulders with some eventual copywriting legends I pottered along and eventually got a job at Holmes Knight Ritchie.
I moved on to Yellowhammer (a respected ‘creative boutique’) but when redundancy came knocking in 1991 I moved out to the country and into freelancing. Never looked back. Either that or no agency wanted me.
What would you have done in another life?
Hermit/pig farmer. Seriously, I do grow pigs.
You’re also a tutor at the Institute of Copywriting. What does that look like?
Tell me about the children’s books
Along with my soulmate, illustrator Phil Burrows, I’ve written a series of educational comic books for The Oxford University Press. Great fun. We sit and eat bacon sandwiches by a river and laugh a lot until we burp up an idea.
Who’s a typical client these days?
Smaller, provincial (in the best sense of the word) agencies and design companies. Lovely people all of them. Of course.
Which is the best agency you’ve worked with?
The Environment Agency.
Which work are you most proud of?
A freebie I did for a photographer called Stuart Redler. I worked alongside a brilliant typographer called Pete Wood to write a short play inspired by Stuart’s pictures. If I say so myself, we created actual art.
Any campaigns or ads you’d have given your left arm to have created?
Pretty much anything Dave Trott did in the 90s. Certainly very little that’s been produced in the last ten years.
Who would be your dream client?
Bensons for beds.
Who’s been your best teacher?
David Holmes, at Holmes Knight Ritchie, who sadly passed away in 2018. Brilliant, maverick and a total gent. I still hear his ghost urging me to tell Dick Knight to fuck off.
What’s the best thing about freelancing?
That blissful post-lunch snooze. And the feeling of self-sufficiency.
How do you see the future of copywriting?
On a rapid downward spiral ever since it encompassed ‘content’. Pshhaw. Wash my mouth out. There are still too many businesses that don’t care about quality work – or even understand why their copy is so bad. As ‘H’ would say: cheap is definitely good.
Is social media unbelievably evil?
Yes. Although it pays lots of bills these days.
Any copywriting books you’d recommend?
Can I change your mind? Written by my old friend, Lindsay Camp. (If you’re reading mate, you owe me a pint.)
Any books in general you love?
Anything by Cormac McCarthy. Dark, beautiful and bloody.
How do you drum up work?
I don’t any more. Enough just seems to lap up on my shores. I’m at an age when there’s other stuff I want to do more, so if I have a free week I rejoice.
Do you prefer teaching or writing?
Both in moderation.
Have you got a grown-up book in you?
Are you mad? That’s really hard work.
What do you do for breakfast?
Anything with fibre in it. Needs must.