Please tell us a bit about yourself. What keeps you busy in day-to-day life? Where are you based? Can you briefly outline your career up until now?
Hello, I’m Robbie Ferguson, a freelance copywriter based in Edinburgh. I’ve been working as a copywriter for *checks watch* just over a decade now. Graduating into a recession with an English Literature/Slavonic Studies degree, there wasn’t exactly a clear career path for me but I knew I wanted to do something that would challenge me creatively. Luckily though I managed to nab a 3 month internship with The Union, which eventually turned into a stint that lasted for a year and a half.
After that I went on to work for Cello Signal (formerly Blonde) which was incredibly rewarding in terms of the people and work that I was exposed to. There I racked up experience with a huge variety of household brands and discovered a good amount of creative opportunities while doing so. Eventually I began working in a team with an Art Director which really suped-up the creative offering of the agency. After a few years I also had the chance to mentor younger creatives through an internship programme.
I went freelance four years ago and really like the variety and flexibility it affords me. I’m equally grateful for the time I spent working for some of Scotland’s biggest ad agencies too – full of experiences that definitely helped shape my approach to crafting copy that works. OK, the Christmas parties aren’t as lively when you go it alone but hey-ho, you can’t have it all. Ironically, I don’t have a website to promote myself – I’ve been lucky enough to be kept busy by word of mouth. Besides, I’m usually creating one on someone else’s behalf! People usually get in contact with me via my LinkedIn profile and we take it from there – so if there’s anyone reading who’s looking for a reliable copywriter with plenty of experience please feel free to get in touch! Plug over…
What is your relationship with McFelder Translations? How did you come to work with McFelder?
I‘ve been writing for McFelder Translations for a good few months now, covering a range of formats for them… web copy, content marketing, client testimonials and brochures to name but a few. It all began when Fiona contacted me and explained the business’ plans to update their website. We had a few meetings to talk about exactly what she envisaged for the new site and gave me a chance to show off a bit of my portfolio… the rest is (fairly recent) history!
What’s been your career highlight to date?
One of the first clients that I worked on there was IRN-BRU which, because of its irreverent tone of voice and unique sense of humour meant it was considered somewhat of a Holy Grail for creatives to work on. We handled all the digital activity for them; website, emails, social media… the lot. At the time brands were only just beginning to realise the potential that a social media presence held and it was my job to come up with regular content for IRN-BRU’s social channels. No mean feat given the brand’s prestige and high standards of creative output. We must have done something right though as the team soon picked up a couple of Scottish Creative Awards for our efforts. Aside from being paid to write jokes for a living, I really relished the challenge in creating new and engaging concepts for a younger digitally-savvy audience on a regular basis. Most of the other work that I’m involved with is a bit more serious than that cheeky IRN-BRU way of doing things, but it absolutely helped me to become a better writer. I learnt the virtue of being concise, not to be too precious about my ideas, how to engage an audience without being condescending and many other things that are so drilled into my way of working I probably don’t even notice them!
What other brands have you worked on?
Too many to list in full! To name a few… New Balance, Famous Grouse, Nairn’s Oatcakes, Tennent’s Lager, Nando’s, VisitScotland, Jim Beam, Burger King, The John Muir Trust, Scottish SPCA, McEwan’s Lager.
Do you have an industry hero?
Yes! I always liked Julian Koenig, the copywriter who came up with the concept of ‘Earth Day’. A simple idea that’s not only a force for good but one that has stood the test of time too. A lot of people also know him for his iconic ‘Lemon’ VW ad too. I also admire how in his later years he challenged the morality of advertising and marketing; “Advertising is built on puffery – on, at heart, deception, and I don’t think anybody can go proudly into the next world with a career built on deception – no matter how well they do it.” To me it shows a self-critical bent that’s glaringly absent from the industry today and lays down the gauntlet for companies to work harder at offering products and services that are truly beneficial. As opposed to overblown salesmanship.
Has working with McFelder given you any interesting insights into the translations services industry?
From a personal point of view it’s interesting to see how similar it is to copywriting and content generation. We’re both doing a fundamentally similar job really; producing content that lives or dies on whether it hits home with the desired audience. I also found it interesting to get my head around the different ‘levels’ of translation and how the degree of human involvement varies from job to job.
How has your relationship with McFelder grown? What do you see for the future of your relationship with McFelder?
Fiona and the team seem to be happy with the work that I’ve turned in and we’re now in discussions about how to approach an ongoing programme of content marketing. Exciting stuff!