Anyone know success stories of copywriters who quit the ad business to pursue other writing ventures (ex: scriptwriting, writing a book)? Always internally debating if it’s worth trying.

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I think there are plenty of people in LA who do both: freelancing as screenwriters and as copywriters / CDs. We did a project at our agency with a writer who had also worked on a season of Jane the Virgin


You could probably make it work in Atlanta too now that most everything is filmed there.

One of most prolific and successful was John Hughes. Leo Burnett CW who went on to write/direct Ferris Bueller, Breakfast Club, Home Alone etc.


Yeah, he was also a huge music fan, hence the movie titles based on British pop/punk songs -Pretty In Pink (Psychedelic Furs), Career Opportunities (The Clash). Hughes was before my time so I never met him but there’s a great story (presumably true) about him at Leo: He was interviewing a young Copywriter and only asked him one question: “Who is the greatest guitar player in the world?” Knowing Hughes’ love of music and particular tastes, the writer thought for a minute, then answered: “Jeff Beck.”
Hughes: "Correct. You’ve got the job.”

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Jim Gaffigan was at ogilvy


Augusten Burroughs



Great thread. Joshua Ferris wrote a book about agency life called “And Then We Came to the End.” A must-read for all agency folks.


Phil Dusenberry didn’t quit the industry but he did co-write The Natural with Robert Towne (if not the best screenwriter ever then definitely on the Mt Rushmore, so who knows how much was actually Dusenberry...)


I've been screenwriting off and on for a decade (just for myself, not professionally), and I've heard from many writers that are former ad creatives. From their experience and my understanding, it's something only worth pursuing if 1. You make it your only big hobby. The 10,000 hours rule definitely applies here. 2. You can't be happy doing anything else. A common mantra of working screenwriters is "if you can do anything else, do that instead of screenwriting." It's a rough business. There are fewer WGA writers than NFL players. Even in the peak TV era where studio profits are soaring, writer earnings are decling. In fact, this very moment is historical, as the WGA just ordered writers to fire all their agents this weekend. Long story, but the big agencies are engaging in self-enriching/conflicted business practices and writers are fighting to end it. I've followed the business closely longer than I've been writing, and it's a constant battle out there for writers. You can't waltz into it, you have to be passionate about it and willing to put in years of practice before attempting to make a living. "Breaking in" is only the beginning, too. There's no magic single script that sets you up for life, it's a grind that does not sound too dissimilar from advertising. But, unlike advertising, your loyalty is to an audience, not a brand. That's a dream to me, and why I keep pursuing it despite the odds. Lastly, for what it's worth, getting noticed isn't actually difficult: writing an amazing script is the difficult part. They're incredibly rare. 95% of scripts that hit the town are completely unfilmable. The rest are mostly just competent. So if you put in the work, and are talented enough, you can be rewarded. But your eye/taste/voice don't develop overnight.


Lol no! But the reason I got into writing in the first place is because a “famous” writer told me I should try it. So I did then I couldn’t cut it so now I write copy. Despite not being successful at writing, where I am now is bounds and leaps better than the dead end job I had


Alexander Stutterheim apparently used to be a copywriter, and now he makes stylish raincoats.


Remember they are the exception. Completely different skill sets to sustain a narrative for tens of thousands of words. You’ll actually find more successful novelists were waiters, rather than copywriters. It’s better to have a job you don’t have to take home with you.


James Patterson


Salman Rushdie


Toby Barlow had a couple of books make the 10 best of the year while running ford creatively out of detroit. Try sharp teeth, it's good.

Graham fink has had a few shows of art, photography and technology play on some major stages.

Peter Souter has some serious TV credits under his belt.

Faye Wheldon is a different generation, but has had hit books, TV shows and film adaptations.

Ed Morris had moved from creative director into film with aplomb and confidence and has a feature upcoming.

F Scott Fitzgerald started in advertising.

Heff , playboy Heff, was an ad guy

So was Dr Suess

John Hughes was at Leo burnett

Helen gurley brown was at fcb


Wow what! That’s an incredible list, dr seuss too huh? Thanks for sharing.

Lil Dickey was at The Martin Agency. I heard he was always rapping at stand ups



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