In conversation with

Chris Hill

Copywriter & Mentor at School of Communication Arts



The School Of Communication Arts is a hub for the next generation of copywriters. It has a network of up to 800 industry mentors, and Chris Hill is one of them.

With extensive experience in the copywriting world it’s no wonder he was recommended by member of The Wordsmiths, Nina Saei, who says: “Chris reminds me often of why I love the written word. In an industry where it feels like copy comes secondary, he teaches us at the SCA to forge its proud place. An infectious character to boot, he’s a treasure trove of stories that are hard to tire from. I hope you enjoy hearing from him”.

And we did.

We spoke to Chris about the secrets to a good relationship between Art Directors and Copywriters, and the key to making a campaign stick.



Question and Answer

Are you more a copywriter who can strategise or a strategist who can write copy?

Definitely the former. I love playing with words. And I love the process of unearthing an idea, too – which is not a journey you can really embark on without some sort of strategy. If you want to find a solution that is germane to the problem, it’s pretty pointless setting off without some sort of map. Ask any pirate worth his salt. That’s why I think that you often find an agency’s best strategists in the creative department. The weight of expectation on their shoulders means they really have to do their homework – unpicking the brief to find the nugget of gold, getting to know the client and the audience inside out. If you try and bluff it, you soon get caught out.

What three things make a good copywriter?

An ear. A heart. And a hand. An ear because the ability to listen is key to so much of what we do. Listen to the client. Listen to the planners. Listen to your partner. Listen to your gut feelings. And most importantly, listen to your target audience. Find out how they think and speak, and you’ll be halfway to knowing how to talk to them in a language they’ll understand. A heart because you always need to inject some personality and passion. If you don’t care about what you’re writing, no one is very likely to care about reading it, or care about whatever it is you’re selling. (My advice is always to write from the heart, then edit with your head). A hand, because if you don’t write down your observations, chances are you’ll forget them. I always recommend that my students carry a notebook and a pen. To jot down the gems of conversation that can only be picked up with studious earwigging, to capture the brilliant idea that invariably pops, fully formed, into your head at the unlikeliest of moments – and because physically writing things down is proven to help them stick in the mind more than leaving a voicemail or typing into a handset. Other body parts are handy (hips being particularly useful for keeping trousers up), but not essential.

Some Kind'a Soho by David Saunders & Darren Russell

What’s the secret to a good copywriter / art director relationship?

See above. Listening is essential. It’s important that neither of you think that your idea/opinion is more important than your partner’s. You should never be afraid to state your case – because the best ideas often come from the silliest of thoughts – but you should always listen to what your other half has to say. Don’t be precious. The art director is just as likely to suggest a great headline as the writer. And writers can be brilliant at pictures too. It’s what you create as a team that’s important – a great team evolves a third person that is better than them both.

Which brands do you admire for their TOV?

Nike have always consistently stuck to their principles for me. Their attitude sings through in every piece of communication, from the small stuff right up to the blockbuster commercials. I like the charming quirkiness of IKEA. Their voice seems true to their roots. Audi and Volkswagen were great for decades – but all car manufacturers seem to have lost their way of late, and merged in to one sludgy, amorphous mass. Jack Daniel’s have impressively stuck to their guns and resisted diluting their heritage in the mad scrabble for the youth market. And Guinness always seem to have a handle on who their audience is, always respecting their intelligence and never patronizing them. (Oops! That’s two booze brands. I hope you don’t think I’m writing this in the pub…)



“An ear. A heart. And a hand. An ear because the ability to listen is key to so much of what we do. Listen to the client. Listen to the planners. Listen to your partner. Listen to your gut feelings. And most importantly, listen to your target audience.”

What would you say is the key ingredient for a campaign to really stick?

Empathy, every time. Campaigns that fail are usually the ones that have made huge assumptions about their audience and got them wrong by a country mile. If you really get under the skin your audience and understand what role the product you are selling plays in their lives, you can start a conversation with them and begin to build a relationship. (This obviously only applies to those few brands who are still actually trying to sell things and keep the economy ticking over, not the hundreds who are only concerned with trumpeting their ‘mission.’)

Tell us you’re a copywriter without telling us you’re a copywriter.

Please find enclosed my invoice for the preceding six paragraphs.

(As I said to the oleaginous git that called me last week, “We’ll be able to pay you if we win the pitch…” isn’t going to put a Turkey on the table at Christmas, is it?)

Chris's book stack

When you’re not writing copy, or responding to briefs, where might we find you?

In a room somewhere surrounded by beautiful girls. So that’s either at home (with Suzy, Evie, Molly, Daphne and Jassy – only two of which are a dog and a cat), or in a seedy dive somewhere, lasciviously stroking Gina Gretsch and Eloise Telecaster. Writing is my living. Guitars are my passion. If I’m not playing rockabilly, I’m probably listening to old school radio comedy, or sitting in a boozer supping a pint of vitamin G, whilst knocking off the Guardian crossword, having a vigorous chinwag with attendant ne’er-do-wells and keeping an eye fixed on the football. I think that, if I hadn’t become a writer, I may have been a contortionist.


Chris' Storylist


  1. Story by Robert McKee
  2. The Mortdecai Trilogy by Kyril Bonfiglioli
  3. The Long Take by Robin Robertson
  4. The Uxbridge English Dictionary by Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Barry Cryer, Jon Naismith
  5. Some Kind'a Soho by David Saunders & Darren Russell


  1. Private Eye


  1. The Tony Hancock Appreciation Society Newsletter


  1. Stuff From The Loft with Dave Dye

Digital platforms

  1. Truefire Guitar Lessons
  2. Patreon (Darrel Higham and Paul Pigat)


  1. Gretsch Guitars
  2. Tottenham Hotspur

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