Category Archives: Freelance

I am a dragon slayer.

If 2010 were a fire breathing dragon deep within a dusty, dark and barren cave, – the only thing standing between me and the life I want to live, then I climbed deep within the bowels of the earth and slayed that dragon.

This time last year I was a green university grad, at grad school and working what I thought was my dream job – for a major political party.

Funny how time passes by and former goals seem like relics of an ancient past. My former self is buried deep within the sediments of time and experience.

Now I stand here a year later, having pursued exactly what I wanted, shed the “friends” who weren’t friends, kept the ones that were, are and will always be.

In the last year I’ve been on welfare, ran a half marathon, suffered from Candida because I couldn’t afford to eat anything but eggs, bread and peanut butter, I slept on friend’s couches for 6 months, left a well paying (supposedly) dream job, worked (unpaid) for an ad agency in Toronto, contacted every ad agency in North America, met some of the most interesting people, changed the way I ate, consumed and thought about the world. I’ve volunteered at soup kitchens, started taking photographs, started a career in marketing, advertising, writing, and consulting. I blogged regularly, tweeted more than Tiger sexts, got glasses, and completely transformed spiritually. Oh and I love riding my bike – nothing makes me feel more free.

Now, with but a few hours left in the year, poverty seems to be another relic of the past but poverty’s memory will live forever – you can never forget that much suffering.

But after it all, I stand here stronger than ever with my own company in hand, head held high and would kill an infinite number of dragons to do it all over again.

Of course any dragon slayer needs help and those that did, you know who you are. Thanks.

Looking for my next adventure…


Are you man enough to ride a Vespa?

Good afternoon internet(s)!

Ever dream of whipping through city streets uninhibited by traffic, picking up your that ginger you need from the market on your way home from a bustling market in Chinatown, the feel of wind in your hair as you take off in your scooter? When I think of this I think of the Vespa.

To me, the Vespa represents the top standard in urban transportation alternatives (outside of public transportation and bicycles of course). So naturally I was drawn to the product and thought maybe I would draw up a couple of spec ads.

See, the problem is no matter how awesome and functional the Vespa is there are lots of dudes who think that driving a Vespa is emasculating. As if to suggest that just getting on a Vespa would make them unattractive losers. As sad as that is, it’s true. So instead of writing an ad to tell these dingleberries how ridiculous they are the approach should be to instruct this very special sect of men to grow a pair and man up.

Trust me, I am sure the most interesting man in the world would tell you to do the exact same thing.

Grow a pair and man up to riding a Vespa? I can see my critics now: “That makes no sense.” Ever hear the phrase “A real man wears pink” or “A real man is comfortable with his sexuality”? Well I think Vespa hit a nerve when they released a Vespa print ad not long ago that tried to overcome this unique business problem.

Here is how I see it.

Vespa’s business challenge was simple: men don’t ride our bikes because they think they are feminine or compromise their masculinity.

Business solution: Make men feel inadequate for NOT driving a Vespa. Get men to believe that a Vespa is in fact a utility that will enhance their lives and not a massive pair of shears that will cut off their testicles upon purchase.

With that in mind Vespa has an ad made with the following copy:

“It’s too manly for you, not the other way around.”

Here is the original. The rest of the print ad run can be viewed here.

I REALLY liked the challenge that Vespa presented and thought I could improve what was already pretty good copy. So I tried to come up with a couple that were short snappy and clever. Hope you like them.

Spec Print ad 1:

An unsolicited speculative advertisement made for my own portfolio.

Spec Print ad 2:
An unsolicited speculative advertisement made for my own portfolio.

Spec Print ad 3 (this is more of a joke, because I doubt Vespa could get Chuck Norris’ permission to write these ads but I couldn’t resist for the fun of it):

An unsolicited speculative advertisement made for my own portfolio.

So guys, would you drive a Vespa? Or are you not man enough?

For the rest of you, does this add to brand? Does this add value to Vespa?

Until next time.


Give me a blank page, and I will give you some ideas.

Do you know where your ideas come from? Do you have a well that you go to when you need creativity and inspiration?

Some people believe that their ‘well’ is a bottle of red wine or some sort of narcotic. Just ask Van Morrison or Lewis Carroll. For me, creativity comes at unpredictable times and in unpredictable places, and trust me there is nothing more nerve racking than knowing that you have no idea where your next idea is going to come from.

More often than not my ideas come from random encounters, discussions with people and even after deep, pensive thinking.

That being said as a person looking for work in an ad agency as a jr copywriter it is critical to show your creativity and writing ability. So I have started developing a spec ad portfolio. For those of you who don’t know what this is let me explain. Speculative ads are advertisements that a person will make that are unsolicited and written or designed by you. Sometimes you may design and write your own ad, or as a writer like me, most of the time you will take the copy off original ad and replace it with your own copy.

So everyday I will post a spec ad that I have made up here on my blog for you to enjoy, hate, critique, share, laugh at or ignore.

Today’s ads: Smart Car. (I realize that some of you have seen these already).

Business Challenge:

Ad agencies are hired by businesses or companies to develop creative problem solving solutions to contemporary business problems. Designing good ads with great content for a great brand or product WILL add to a company’s value and will help drive their business. This is a very rewarding task.

I imagined a challenge for Smart Car and it goes like this:

Smart Car executives and marketing personnel feel like their product is stigmatized, people believe the size of the car is a negative, they aren’t aware of some of its impressive features and others believe the car is unsafe. These assumptions are holding Smart Car back from increasing its market share in the category.

Proposed solution:

I am the kind of thinker that likes to take a seemingly negative aspect from a product, flip it upside down, and turn it into a positive. I always want people to think and laugh when I write as well. I assume that the consumer is just as intelligent as me and try to do two things: 1. Illicit an emotional response (laughter, happiness, sadness, excitement, shock etc) and 2. Illicit a behavioural response (get someone to buy your product and or service, have a compelling call to action, have a person reconsider their current product usage etc).

So with all that in mind I wrote two separate speculative ads for Smart Car.

1. Raging Bull: I wanted to have very little copy, have good use of white space and make you think differently about the car. I also chose the colour of the car carefully.

2. It’s not a teapot: I wanted to make an ad that I would have fun writing and reading. I also wanted to dismantle a common stereotype that Smart Car faces; people think they are dangerous, slow, and tip easily. I have heard that some people go around and tip Smart Cars like some people tip cows. Ridiculous. I also wanted to surprise consumers with some of the features about the product that they might not have known.

Tomorrow I am serving up some Vespa ads. Until then I have to go finish watch Brandon Morrow DESTROY the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He has 14K’s through 7 innings. Unreal. My Blue Jays rock! And how about JP Arencibia yesterday?!

Until the internets connect us again.


It’s not you, it’s me… and oh yea, thanks for reaching out.

Can you guess how many applications I have now sent to ad agencies?

The answer:
Over 1,100. I have personally contacted every agency in Canada and every agency in 37 American states. No word of a lie I send dozens of personally tailored and researched letters to ad agencies every day. I personally follow up with people and now send them samples of my spec ads to give them a taste of my style.

You figure with that much effort the results must be astounding, right? Wrong. As you know I was given a freelance copywriting job with Saatchi and that is all fine and dandy. I successfully wrote some febreze ads last week and I am still waiting for my next assignment.

That’s it though. Of course we are facing a recession and ad buys are down across the board and many agencies are cash strapped and simply aren’t hiring new talent but you figure I have got to stumble upon somebody who just landed a new client who now has staffing needs, right? I follow Ad Age magazine, I write to every agency that lands a new account personally and tie my letter to their new account. For example one agency was just named the AOR (Agency of Record) for Virgin Mobile. I wrote to these guys congratulated them on their new deal, introduced myself and told them that I could help make the 911 fees and other annoying billing features sexy as a joke. No response.

When you do get a response in the Ad industry people are very nice and the one line you get over and over and over and over again is “Thanks for reaching out.” If I had a dollar for every time I have had this phrase written to me in the last 2 months I wouldn’t need a job let alone one in the ad industry. Gee whiz.

I feel like I am trying to ask the captain of the cheerleading team to the prom and she won’t return my calls. On paper I am exactly what she’s looking for but no matter how creative I get or how cool I am she is going to pick the dude on the motorcycle wearing the leather jacket.

Today alone I received 9 personal emails (and its only 3pm) all of them congratulating me on my wit, creativity, ingenuity and writing ability. Presumably these are skills that these agencies would want to recruit, but in the same breath they consistently tell me that there are no openings.

Here are some excerpts of emails I have received, just today:

“Thanks for the kind words and taking the time to email XXXXXXXXXXXXX. Of all the submissions to Talent I have received to date, I must say this is one of the most witty I’ve ever read.
We’ll be going through your work and we’ll keep you on file should a need arise in the future, as we are not hiring at this time.”

Never give up your dreams. I remember times being out of work and went
through what you are going through. These are difficult times for
everyone. Take a job outside the agency business for the time being.
The experience will pay off later when you least expect it. All your
experiences will find its way into a great campaign someday. David
Ogilvy was a door to door salesman, researcher and chef before getting
a job in the business. He used much of this experience later in his

“Just shared your work with a colleague, who was also impressed with your work. ”

Thanks for your interest in RLF and a most engaging email\cover letter. It does get one’s attention. I have no openings on the horizon, but will keep your skills and creativity in mind. Best of luck with the job search.”

“I think your ads look nice and clean.”

How can something like this not catch my eye…happy to catch up with you on the phone if you’d like and have copied XXXXXX XXXXXX, our chief creative officer as well to talk.
Let me know when you might like to speak with one or both of us…we aren’t really hiring right now, but you sure cut through the clutter.
All the best.”

“Hi Liam,
Thanks for reaching out to XXXXXXXXXX. (NAME REMOVED) is our creative recruiter and is the one you should be in touch with. I’ve copied him here and forwarded all your attachments.
Good luck”

“Good evening Liam!
I did in fact receive your email as evidenced by the fact that it sits right below this message. And while having an office fern who can silly walk with the best of them is downright appealing, having a lion-clothed man who smells of raw fish and pine tar wondering aimlessly about the office is not. Which is to say, I have no budget for a new person (or fern) at this time, but will file away your silliness in case of serious silliness emergency.
Good luck in your search (and cabin building endeavors).”

“Liam, thanks for your email. You’re correct! Haven’t received one like that before. And that can be a good thing. I am directing your info to my erstwhile partner, XXXXXXX XXXXXXX, who supervises our creative discipline. His email is in case you want to shoot him a note directly. Thanks – I hope the two of you talk soon.”

I should mention here that I have a new approach with my opening email. It has become infinitely more absurd than it was originally. This is what you would receive if you are a creative director or partner at an Ad Agency:
Good day (Insert name(s) here)!

I just finished reading your website and I felt compelled by the power of Bill Bernbach to write to you and introduce myself. I hope you have 5 minutes or are a speed reader with less than a minute to spare.

We haven’t met before, but I think we should. You want interesting people, in fact you need them. So here I am – wanting to work for your agency. You have no idea how badly I want this – I actually dream about it.

I want to work as a copywriter in a Jr. position, an internship. Heck, I’d even dress up like a fern and stand in the front foyer during business hours to add to the decor if it meant me getting a crack at this place. All I need is enough to clothe, feed and house me. If you can do that at a minimum then we’re talking. If you can’t well I guess I could consider making an outfit out of loin cloth and sleeping in a self constructed log cabin in the woods. After all, I am from Canada and know how to survive this thing we call “winter” and we love the outdoors – a lot. As for the food part, I was never any good at fishing or hunting but I suppose I could give it a try if I had to, we have lots of moose and geese up here.

If you can’t stand the thought of me dressed as a potted plant in your office, then know that I just got a gig freelancing for Saatchi.

I realize you probably get more ‘job application’ emails than you could possibly shake a stick at – but I doubt you get many like this. So before you delete this I ask that you do a few things for me (I know we just met, relax, I am not asking you on a date or anything):

Read the cover letter I wrote for you (because I think it is super cool and therefore you will too) and take a look at my CV – it is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. I promise.

With all that in mind I have attached the following:

1. A mugshot so you can see who you are dealing with
2. Cover letter
3. Resume
4. An ad that I made just for you

The attachments are big so I would really appreciate it if you could email me to let me know that you received my application. This way I will know that this email hasn’t ended up in the nebulous world of the internets.

Also, you should know that my portfolio dwells in this internet cave: – keep an eye out for the cover letter inside.There is a lot of spec ad material in there. You will find the most relevant stuff in the “Print” folder. If I modified an ad previously made I simply included the original, labeled it as such and included my revised versions with the new copy, you tell me if I improved the ads. Some of the ads are original concepts that I wrote and designed myself. My favourite work is in the “Smart Car” and “Vespa” folders located inside the “Print” folder.

Thank-you very much for considering my application and I hope to hear from you soon!




This has definitely yielded a lot more responses! People are taking notice that’s for sure. But what give with one of Toronto’s best independent agencies? I emailed their HR Department, and every single partner, all 11 of them and I have not received a single response. Makes me wonder.

Now, this isn’t meant to be all gloom and doom, it’s just simply a sample of what I deal with each and everyday. I wake up early apply and by the end of the day I am so thoroughly frustrated that I can’t imagine applying anymore, but then I wake up the next day and realize that if I stop applying opportunities will stop presenting themselves. Funny how that works.

Before I go I want to apologize for not writing at all in the past two weeks. My mind has been in other places.

Peace in the Middle East,


I feel like I am waiting for my blind date to arrive.

It is 7am and you’d think I just woke up. Wrong. For those of you who know me well, you know that I don’t sleep much and when I do it is in bizarre intervals that can’t really be explained in a logical manner. That’s neither here nor there I suppose – I am just awake and figured I’d contribute to my blog after my traditional weekend absence.

A few things to comment on.

I get my first assignment from Saatchi & Saatchi this week. I am waiting anxiously like you do when you awkwardly wait for your first date to arrive. You spend the time pacing back and forth imagining what you will say when you first meet her (or him). You stop in front of a nearby mirror (if you have one) and you practice there. You make a bunch of goofy faces, twisting your nose and eyebrows in ways that make Mr. Potato Head jealous. You spend the time hoping to God that one of your siblings or parents don’t float by and catch you in this deeply intimate and vulnerable moment where you’ve let your guard down. The doorbell rings, its her. Your mom calls for you and you scurry down the stairs and try not to fall on the way. This is especially difficult because your date is beautiful – very beautiful and you can’t take your eyes off of her.

Yup. That’s how I feel right now. I am just waiting and the time ticks by ever so slowly. So I fill it with things to do to to help pass the time. Anywhoodles, I should hear from them today and we will go from there. I will be sure to pass on more info as it comes along.

More things to comment on.

Yesterday I got two gigs given to me. One gives me the opportunity to design a commercial with a great team for the Cheetah Energy Drink. I spent this last evening brainstorming ideas and have already thrown some down on paper. I promise to steer away from lame “cheater” jokes and references to Ben Johnson.

I was also asked by a friend to make a submission for the Ottawa Little Theatre One Act Playwriting competition. Being the story teller that I am this is a natural fit for me so I will pursue this if I have some time – I want to do it right if I do it at all. Twenty five minutes is a lot of time to fill. Perhaps I can do a tableau, that will cut down on the writing.

Weekend in review:

I met some strange people this weekend. I discovered there is an entire sect of people who use twitter as if it were four square. I realize that it makes complete sense but twitter was their thing. As my father would say, “they were tweetering” an awful lot. So much for conversation. It is hard to talk with a person who has their face glued to a phone. Trust me I know this, I worked in politics for a bit.

Had a couple of congratulatory drinks on Friday and then retired to my humble abode…. I just realize that my weekend update is vain and probably something nobody cares to read so I will cut it off there.

I plan on commenting on Apple’s “antennagate” shortly.

Until then, keep cool.


602 applications, 32 days and many sleepless nights later…

Today, after all of that I was offered a gig. Yep that’s right, Saatchi & Saatchi offered me a freelance position where I will get to work on two massive accounts: Proctor and Gamble and Wal Mart. Amazing. I nearly shed a tear when the guy interviewing me offered me the job over the phone. All I could say was, “wow, thank-you.”

Speaking of the guy who interviewed me, he is a big deal. Bigger than Ron Burgundy big. In 2009 this guy was voted as one of the top ten creative directors in the world! Of course I discovered this before our conversation this morning so I was a little intimidated to say the least.

He told me he LOVED my cover letter, “It was very very good” – he liked my tenacity and creativity. So after chatting about baseball, old movies, my life and answering one question for him he offered me a job. 41 minutes is all it took and it felt great.

I mentioned to him that other firms have offered me freelancing gigs. In fact I just got another one with an Ottawa based agency! After telling him this he said “Well, look. If I like what you produce I want to take you with me, and bring you down here and work in the agency full time.” Again, I nearly shed a tear.

This is it. It’s my big break. Getting this shot is a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially with a creative director of his caliber. Who knows what could happen next – but in the mean time I am going to get paid and I will be able to start building my portfolio.

I am getting connected with their senior copywriter so that he can mentor me and teach me what he knows. I will listen and observe and soak it all up like a sponge.

Feels really weird having a breakthrough, I was beginning to lose hope. But now, now I feel like I can do anything. I can’t wait for my first assignment.

This whole thing gave me a feeling that I got when I heard that kid do the guitar solo in August Rush. The clip is here. It will make you feel awesome inside. That is how I feel right about now. Enjoy.

More updates to come as I get them.

And oh yea, his one question for me:

“Liam what do you want out of a career in advertising, moreover why do you want to be like Bill Bernbach?”

My response:

‘To advertise in ways never done before and to give my brain the creative outlet that it’s always wanted”