AMA: Advertising creative and copywriter. Co-author of viral ad tackling casual homophobia.

Lizzie Baird
Mar 11, 2018

Hi everyone,

I'm a copywriter based in Auckland, New Zealand. Here's a link to my best-known piece of work:  

AMA about getting into advertising, life as a creative/copywriter, how we made an ad go viral - or anything else you'd like to know about the industry. I also have a beloved miniature pinscher, so feel free to ask about dogs too. 

Thanks - looking forward to answering your questions.

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How does a copywriter determine the relevance, when gathering information from multiple sources?
Mar 18, 12:45AM EDT0
How do you as a copywriter visualise and communicate a concept to a designer?
Mar 18, 12:29AM EDT0
How would a copywriter vary the language and tone of messages based on product and medium?
Mar 18, 12:01AM EDT0
What was an effective method you have used to write to customers so that the sales message was received readily?
Mar 17, 10:24PM EDT0
Do you have a cute story about your pets to share? How long have you been a pet owner?
Mar 13, 5:11AM EDT0

I've always had animals in my life. I have one funny story about the very first dog my family had. She was already around before I was born and I guess I really loved her from the start because her name "Mindy" was my first word!

Mar 14, 3:24AM EDT0

What are your actual thoughts on both homophobia and homosexuality?

Mar 13, 2:21AM EDT0

Well, that's pretty simple: homophobia doesn't make any sense at all and I believe in equality. As long as people aren't hurting anyone and everyone consents, people should be free to be who they are

Mar 14, 3:23AM EDT0
What according to you are some of the best places to visit in and around Auckland, New Zealand?
Mar 12, 2:32PM EDT0

I like Bethells Beach, Piha and Waiheke for beachy things. Matakana has good wineries. I really like the markets here. There's a great one at Clevedon and a nice waterfall and walk nearby in the Hunua Ranges. 

The museum and art gallery are good as well. Here's a good website you can check out:

Also, the food is pretty good: 

Mar 14, 3:19AM EDT0
Have you tried to hide real-life stories from your personal life while writing a fiction?
Mar 12, 12:36PM EDT0

Not really. I've blended a few little stories into some larger stories but I tend to just write whatever I feel like in fiction. I know there's a saying "write what you know" but I like to explore topics I'm not really familiar with too. 

I use real-life stories a lot more in advertising than in fiction. 

Does that answer your question?

Mar 14, 2:59AM EDT0
What are five things, groups, people that keep you get going in life?
Mar 12, 9:15AM EDT0

Hmm, I'm not sure, really. I suppose my friends, parents and then just my drive to do good work and do good in the world - oh, and Magnus, of course.

Mar 14, 3:08AM EDT0

Are you hoping to reach a teen/young adult audience with your ad, and if so, how do you go about getting it to them?

Mar 12, 6:03AM EDT0

Yes, but we also tried to reach the people around the teens, like parents, family friends, and people in rural and isolated communities. 

RainbowYOUTH is a charity for people aged up to 27 years old, so naturally, teens and young adults will go to the website after seeing the ad.  The charity's Facebook page also has a lot of young followers, so they were amongst the first to see and share the ad. 

We've also heard that teachers are showing it in their classrooms, which is another way it's getting in front of young people. 

I think a lot of the teens and young adults simply saw it on Facebook, thought it was funny and important, then shared it or tagged their friends in it.

It was aired on TV during shows that younger audiences gravitate towards like Married at First Sight too. It was also picked up by almost every major news show in New Zealand and on multiple radio shows, as well as websites skewed towards youth like VICE, Buzzfeed, Mashable and The Wireless. It got a lot of exposure here and in Australia at the time, which helped get people to check it out too. 

We were really lucky people were so interested in it. I'm not sure how to replicate that! 

Mar 13, 4:58AM EDT0
Why did you choose to have a miniature pinscher? What is it about this breed that appeals to you?
Mar 11, 8:39AM EDT0

I've always had Jack Russells previously and wanted to get a dog that's similarly fun but a little smarter and a bit easier to have in a rental. After doing some research, I thought a miniature pinscher would be the dog to suit. 

I was kind of right, aside from the toilet training. It took months to get Magnus to consistently go outside. He also needed a lot of exercise in the morning and night or he'd start chewing things. Luckily, he's nearly three now, so is well out of those stages but it took a lot of work for the first 1.5 years!

Min pins are bred to work as ratters, so are generally quite healthy dogs with no major issues. They're active, really intelligent, cuddly and full of character. Since they're smart, they're easy to teach but that doesn't mean they're easy to train. Magnus often tests the boundaries so I need to be a lot firmer with him than any other dog I've had. I was quite surprised by that and have since done lots of research about how to handle the breed's defiant traits since.

He's really cool now and I wouldn't trade him for anything, but man, he was a lot of work to start with. My Jack Russells were much easier and more respectful but maybe that's because they were family dogs and I didn't have to be the parent. 

Mar 13, 4:41AM EDT0
Do you have your own website where one can see more of your work and more information about yourself?
Mar 11, 8:38AM EDT0

I do but it's currently being updated. I have LinkedIn (under Elizabeth Baird) and I'm on Instagram. I also have a portfolio on Tumblr, which needs a bit of work and is going to be converted into a proper website: 

I work in a team and our website is but that's the one being refreshed, so you probably won't be able to access it just yet. My art director teammate made it, so it's much better designed than mine!

I've been working at the same agency for a few years so haven't been as on to it as I should be with keeping the portfolio updated. 

Mar 13, 4:25AM EDT0
How did you get inspiration for writing the story for your ad about casual homophobia?
Mar 11, 8:16AM EDT0

Whenever we answer briefs, we have to come up with a range of ideas, which we then write up and present to a CD. We presented all sorts of different angles and the ad we ended up making was just one idea.

That particular one came from something someone had said to me recently. I can't remember what it was about now, but he said "Oh, that's gay," and when I questioned it, he sort of just laughed it off. 

A couple of months later, the brief for RainbowYOUTH came in and I remembered what that guy had said, shared the story with my workmates and together we took that base and turned it into a script. 

Mar 13, 4:07AM EDT0
What is life like as a copywriter? Do you enjoy it?
Mar 11, 8:07AM EDT0

It's challenging, stimulating and fun. You learn new things all the time and become a mini-expert on all sorts of topics, products and services. 

I really enjoy it but it can be stressful and it's very demanding. You're always chasing deadlines and you're often expected to drop everything to meet them. There's also pressure on you to win new business pitches and do great work all the time. It's definitely not for everyone but if you have the flexibility, discipline and drive to make it work, it's a great career. 

Mar 13, 3:59AM EDT0
How did you make your ad go viral? What strategies did you use?
Mar 11, 5:17AM EDT0

I guess you never really know if something is going to go viral or not, so there are no set techniques, really.

In saying that, we tried to make every phrase something people could quote and use to call out their friends if they heard them saying something out of line. 

We also went for a lighthearted approach to make it engaging, unexpected and fun to share with friends. We had to make it insightful so people would connect with it as well. Most New Zealanders have heard the phrase before so that made it relatable. 

Usually, we would put a bit of money behind a video like this on social media and try and give it a push through PR, but in this case, everyone's time and resources were donated, so we didn't have the budget for those extras. We were just lucky people took a liking to the ad and shared it organically. It's also quite a timely message, so a lot of people were happy to talk about it. 

Mar 13, 3:15AM EDT0
Why the topic of casual homophobia? Have you had a personal experience with homophobia?
Mar 10, 5:55PM EST0

The brief from our client RainbowYOUTH was about reducing homphobia, so that's why it's the topic for the ad. 

The inspiration for the ad came from direct personal experience. My old flatmate said "That's gay," about something in front of me a couple of months before we got the brief, so it was fresh in my mind. 

It's also quite a common phrase in New Zealand. My friend is a high school teacher and said the kids say it a lot over things like new seating plans, homework and tests. I'm not sure if people really say it in other countries, but it's been around in New Zealand for close to 20 years, as far as I know. 

Mar 10, 10:00PM EST0
What is the name of your dog? What is his/her personality like?
Mar 10, 4:49PM EST0

Hi name is Magnus and he is very funny and clever. He's fiesty and thinks he's a wolf, even though he's a runt. He's loving, fun and enjoys going anywhere I'm going. He can be quite naughty and willful and always pushes the boundaries so I have to be pretty strict with him but he's two now so is starting to chill out a bit. He's a cool and sweet guy and everyone loves him. 

Mar 10, 9:42PM EST0
What do you do for hobbies and outside interests, apart from copywriting?
Mar 10, 4:28PM EST0

I like writing fiction, just for fun. It's always nice to have a personal project to work on as well. I also read a lot, and try and see as many films, TV shows, plays and exhibitions as I can. I kind of have to for work so that I'm up with the play culturally. 

I spend a lot of time walking my dog too. New Zealand is pretty far away from everything, but I love travelling when I can.

Other than that, I like hiking, cruising around on my bicycle, eating out, cooking and making epic birthday cakes for my friends. I've also started making those bonsai-inspired Japanese plant/moss combination things called kokedama. I'm not sure why I started making them, but it's pretty fun and they're good gifts, so I'll keep it up.

Mar 10, 9:36PM EST0
How did you get into advertising? Is it something you have always been passionate about?
Mar 10, 4:28PM EST0

I've always loved reading and writing and developed an interest in advertising in high school. 

I then went to university and studied English Literature and Classics, which I didn't really need for advertising, but both majors helped me learn more about writing. Then I went to Media Design School and studied creative advertising in a one-year diploma, which was a really hands on course that ended with an industry portfolio show. From that show, people were offered internships and then full time roles.

I started as an intern at DDB, then moved to an independent agency called Special Group. After that I went to Y&R and have been there for about four years now. 

The great thing about being a copywriter is you get to constantly hone your writing, ideation and craft skills, which will definitely come in handy when I start focusing more on longer form personal projects.

Mar 10, 9:26PM EST0
What is the copywriting industry like in Auckland?
Mar 10, 2:30PM EST0

It's great in Auckland! New Zealand clients are quite progressive, brave and excited by good work, so it's a really good place to work. Lots of creatives come over from the UK and Australia to bulk up their portfolios, because projects tend to get made a lot faster here. 

Mar 10, 9:13PM EST0
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