October 22, 2019

Meet The Creator - Marcus Johnson


Marcus has more than 25 years of experience in the creative industries as a copywriter. Having been employed at some of Australia's leading advertising agencies (and working on some of the world's top brands), he is a trusted senior content consultant and a multiple award winner. Having demonstrated specialist abilities as a copywriter, Marcus has a proven ability to consistently develop high levels of persuasive content for film and television, radio, print, press, web and digital media. We recently asked him some questions about his approach to content creation.

What is it you enjoy about creating content?

Well, I enjoy writing. That's a given. I enjoy the process of taking information and building a story around it, making it worth reading, injecting some personality into it. It challenges my thinking and puts me on the spot. How do I explain this? How can I make it clearer? How can I make it worth somebody's time? Would I want to read this?

Tell us about your journey to become a content creator

I'd always written. And I was the 5th Grade spelling champion. But my professional writing career started with a course called CopySchool, which was run by the Melbourne ad agencies in the 80's to attract new talent. It was publicised in the newspapers and applicants had a month to complete the submission. A friend handed it to me with three days to go and said “You like writing. Why don't you have a crack at this? It's too hard for me …” I guess that's when I first learned how to work under intense deadline pressure. The course was brilliant. Run by all the Creative Directors across town with complete access to their very clever brains and lots of time to ask questions. Out of 3000 applicants, I was one of 12 selected and only half a dozen completed the course, which was an amazing learning experience and quite often, trial by fire. From that, I built a portfolio that got me a gig as a very junior copywriter at Clemenger. I stayed for 13 years and worked on some incredible brands and hey, it was the 80's and we were in advertising — lots of fun and big shoulder padsI segued that into freelancing, opened my own business, worked one-on-one with some great marketers and have managed to keep the door open for a long time. I'm still using that wealth of experience, just in different ways. Online platforms like Fabulate are perfect for a content-hungry world and I like the idea of being part of a community of boutique or curated providers.There's plenty of rubbish out there and I've always believed quality has a way of shining through.

What is the piece of content you are most proud of?

If I had to point to one, my personal fave would be the Star Award I won for Mercedes-Benz. I wrote an ad that was judged world's best across all their marketing agencies for the year. Most often, the really satisfying work is with smaller jobs where you save somebody's butt and turn around something that exceeds their expectations. I should also mention a story I told the Fabulate team as it reminded me of something very important: the value of storytelling as concisely as possible. As a very junior agency writer, I came to the attention of the Editor of a major newspaper. He decided that I showed some promise and we struck up a great relationship over time. He gave me the job of writing the daily headline for the ‘wire baskets' that sat outside milk bars and newsagents. You had around six words to tell the day's big story in a way that grabbed the attention of passers-by. That was a tough gig and always under deadline pressure. But I would see those on the way home and go “I did that” and feel pretty damn fine.

What value does content bring to a client's marketing strategy?

Content amplifies the marketer's efforts behind the scenes. It's a powerful delivery device. Hopefully, it answers the tough questions that crop up along the way. The ones that smart consumers  (they're all pretty smart in my view) will ask, the ones that shift them from disbelief or cynicism towards trust and purchase. Great content should almost be invisible. It should feel natural, a conversation that informs and adds value. It's also more than the words. Great design is content as well.

What's your approach in bringing a client's story to life through brand journalism?

Most of the time, I try to think like the reader, not the client. Yes, take on all the information, process it, understand the context and the issues but keep the end-user at the forefront. And be prepared to do things that stand out. Use a quirky fact or put some vibe into the piece. Play with the language.  

How do you determine the tone, voice and style is right for a piece of content?

In some cases, it's pre-determined through detailed tone-of-voice guidelines that are supplied to point all the stakeholders in a common brand direction. Other times, it's gut feel. Writing a tech article is going to be a different voice from writing about beer, for example. The old adage about writing a letter to your aunt or a friend and then removing the initial greeting is also a good one.

What is the most useful thing a marketer can provide you in the brief that allows you to understand their brand?

Believable substantiation for their key message. If it's fresh or new or I can get behind it fully, that makes the job easier.  

What makes successful content?

From a client perspective: results. That might be brand awareness for a top-of-funnel exercise, direct sales or a big bite into a competitor's space. Of course, we are in the age of data and that can be detailed measurement around actions and the ability to tweak a campaign.From the reader's perspective: I got a lot out of that. I didn't know that. That interests me and I need to find out more. Makes total sense. I love that. From my perspective: Did it work? Was there any feedback I can take on board? What can I do better? Did I deliver on time, as expected or better?You can find Marcus and his creative portfolio on the Fabulate platform, by clicking and viewing his profile here.