In Conversation with Phil Taffs

How did you get into Copywriting – was it by accident or design?

I was enrolled to do my Masters at Monash University: my thesis was going to be a comparison of John Irving as a popular writer of the 70s and Joseph Heller as a popular writer of the 60s.   But I was sitting at Brian Sweeney’s desk (of Sweeney Research) doing phone interviews one Thursday night, flicking through Ad News and saw an ad for that year’s Copyschool. 12 student in-take only based on an assignment. By some miracle, I got in.

In your opinion, what’s the best work you’ve done?

My first TV ad was for Sunsmart: Leave your hat on.   It is one of the most successful public service campaigns in Australia’s history – and so presumably saved a few lives.  (Matt Burgess, art director, and Graeme Sanford, MD, also instrumental in its creation.) 

Also proud of successfully launching the Honda CR-V and Honda Odyssey into Australia (with Matt Burgess and Graeme Sanford again. They did most of the work!)

Also quite proud of my novel, THE EVIL INSIDE, through Quercus London, publishers of GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Sold 9k copies, mainly in Europe.

(That was just me.)

So far, what’s been the biggest challenge of your career?

After getting a job (take anything kids: mine was a small rural-industrial agency in Carlton), moving to New York City, setting up my own consultancy – MI5 – and winning some dotcom business during the early noughties bubble. Moving to another city in another country is very hard _ especially with a young family – but also very rewarding.

The lifelong friends you make are even more important than any career wins.

Name one person in the creative industry you’ve truly admired?

Terence Hammond.  Ex-JWT CD and my boss for a few years.  A lovely man who has gone onto a stellar career as a screenwriter.

He never gave up!

If you could change something about the creative industry what would it be?

End ageism.  Stop believing that digital is the answer: it is but a micro-channel.  You still need ideas, craft and inspiration.

Forget about clicks, you want “wow!”s.  In fact, be very suspicious of clicks.  Word of mouth is a better metric.

What do you think the future holds for the creative industry?

A heady hybrid of creativity meeting technology.  Already there in many ways…

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