The Boardroom Barbarians Want Coffee

They usher me into the boardroom first, ‘After you, Love,’ says the one with the suit.

‘Yes blondie, you go on ahead,’ echoes the one with the Converse and the topknot. I do go on ahead and even giggle. Why do I always giggle?

‘Thanks,’ with my head down and the word given to all of the boardroom barbarians, those that come now and those that have come before.

‘I’ll take a double shot espresso with one sugar,’ says the one with the visitor’s badge.

‘I’ll have the same, but no sugar,’ says the one with the USB stick at the ready, ‘I’m sweet enough,’ he winks.

The coffee orders are currently stuck in the grout of the exposed brick wall, waiting for me to pick them up. I’ve already giggled once, not this time.

‘I don’t get the coffees, I write the ads.’ Yes, that ought to do it. I see the words heading towards that shiny barbarian badge like a slap. So, I giggle. Why do I always giggle? Now the words land on their laps like laced defiance.

‘Oh, you call yourself a writer, do you?’ The one with the badge. They all laugh in a cauldron cackle. ‘I thought he was the writer on this account,’ pointing at topknot Converse.

‘Yes, he is the creative lead, but I concepted this campaign with our new art director,’ firm but kind, well done. ‘She also just graduated from Award School, and with second preference.’

‘Second preference. Who got first then? I bet Market Force snapped him up quicker than you can get a coffee around here.’ The badged barbarian directs this one to the suit.

‘It was a she, actually.’ I interject. Now I’m flushed red, I can feel the heat. They told me to stay quiet until the end and look what I’ve done, admitted that two graduates developed their next campaign.
‘She was me.’ I may be red but my eye contact is strong, head still raised.

‘Yes, yes, we snagged the top two Award grads just like last year.’ The one with the USB stick protects the agency’s ego standing.
‘But I’m still head strategist and he still runs the creative department. Just sampling a bit of fresh blood for this one.’ He inserts the UBS violently.
‘You are targeting the ironic generation, after all.’ Bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble.

The presentation flashes up on the newly rendered wall: ACQUISITION OF AUDIENCE SECTOR C. FEMALES AGED 18-25.

‘Hold your horses,’ announces the badge. ‘Since when do we start a presentation before coffee?’ He flounders his arms on the boardroom glass,
‘Come on Love, fetch someone who knows how to make a good brew.’

I stay seated.

Topknot stands, ‘I’ll get Susie.’

(a flash fiction piece written in response to ‘The Barbarians Are Coming’ by Marilyn Chin)


For me, there is nothing more therapeutic or healing than the act of writing. There is something about stringing words together that feels almost meditative. In fact, I am writing this article during a particularly tough time in my life, so what better thing to do than write about, well, writing. Every small, medium, and large business has to do it; every start-up, non-profit, community enterprise, freelancer, and entrepreneur needs to write and write well in order to be taken seriously. Even more importantly, to get noticed. When you take your business idea from subconscious to conscious; from a chat over wine with a girlfriend to a chat over numbers with an accountant; and inevitably from a dream into a frightening reality, the chances are you need to start putting pen to paper very early on and write about you and your business. *Cue the taunting blank page and anxiety-inducing blinking curser*

Clients often say to me, “I know what I want to say, but I don’t know how to say it.” This perennial stuckness can sometimes come from a lack of background work. So, here are some things you should know before you even attempt to face the black-page-nemesis of kryptonite doom (aka copywriting).

1.     Know your brand

Okay, this one is easier said than done and a lot of people decide to invest a fair chunk of time and money for this knowledge (certainly not a bad idea at all). Having a brand strategy is crucial and it will become the foundation of your copywriting – as well as a host of other creative and business decisions. What is your brand’s personality? Is it fun and playful, or serious and professional? What is the tone of the brand? Witty and intelligent, or humble and creative? Is your brand young and innovative, or established and trusted? There are a lot of questions and it’s time to start answering them. If you find it hard to define what your brand’s personality is, try to start with what your brand isn’t. Defiance can often kick-start the process with a lot more clarity.

2.     It’s about them, not you

For each piece you write, you need to know who you are talking to (and it’s never yourself). Some businesses make the mistake of talking too much about themselves and their pursuits. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s always about your audience – their lives, their problems, their reactions, and their needs. And your audience changes, a lot, so change with them and tailor each piece to each new audience.

3.     Choose your medium

Your style of writing needs to suit its environment. It needs to fit in with the content it’s surrounded by, or it needs to offer a clear contrast for a reason. The tone for a social media post will be vastly different to that of a stakeholder newsletter. Sure, this is about the audience but it’s also about the method by which you are reaching them. What frame of mind they are in and what they are expecting from you via that channel.  

4.     Simplify

Look at what you have just written and halve it. Okay, that’s a little extreme, but you do need to simplify the content and give it some structure. People are busy (preaching to the converted here I’m sure) and they skim read. Give the most important information first or a strong hook to read on (do both if you can), use headlines and sub-headlines so that readers can skip to the sections relevant to them, and just because Facebook ads have all but abandoned their character limits, it doesn’t mean you have to.

5.     Grammar, seriously

This one is make or break. Grammar is so important if you want to be taken seriously. If you can, get a fresh pair of eyes to look over your work before it goes out. You can also download a handy little tool called Grammarly which trumps spell-check on any program.

If you still come up completely wordless like Taylor Swift without a boyfriend or a breakup, or like Trump without Twitter (and you know this article can do nothing to save you from blank page-itis) then there’s a reason why people like me have jobs; we love extracting what’s in your mind and putting it into unique words for your brand and its audience. In other words: handball the task and keep copywriters writing!

Time is on grief’s side, not yours

The first tear is like a punch.
A punch that blisters the skin-thin blockade.
A punch through the medication.
A punch through time.
Because time will not heal you like they say;
its passage is no longer linear,
it’s feeble, it breaks,
and bends and stretches when it should snap.

let's make good art

There is a point when life can feel a little less guided by the star of Bethlehem and a little more rerouted by the misunderstood witches of east wick. These pivotal points of fray and disenchantment can throw off our entire self-theory of evolution. "What happened?" "How did I get so lost?" And the worst one of all, "who have I become?" It’s at these moments that we need to stitch back together the pieces of our true self and wonder, "where exactly is she?" Well, I think I have the coveted answer - in our craft!

A mentor of mine once shared a clip of his favourite writer giving a graduate speech to a new group of arts' students, and the theme - make good art. Neil Gaiman quite clearly navigates his audience through their future life and work challenges with a three-word fall back – make good art. “Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong; in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make. Good. Art.” His string of scenarios all come back to this statement.

 “Husband runs off with a politician. Make good art.”

“Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor. Make good art.”

My scenarios run a little closer to non-fiction. Times when I have been faced with a grief so painful I thought the depths of the earth would be warmer than my bed. Other times when I’ve felt that my contribution was meaningless and destructive. Or, on the flip side, when a love so deep gave me an enlightened view of every single human expression. In those times, and many other less pivotal moments, I looked to my craft.

We joined a collective such as this to make good art. To be in a community of likeminded artists, whatever that expression may be; I've seen florals that dive into theories of ethereal reality, jewellery that clashes bold feminism with divine femininity, and space-artists that have an innate ability to add emotion and storytelling to a room. For me, the craft is writing. The grab-a-journal-and-explode kind of writing. When anything goes astray, the pencil is never far away (sorry for the unintentional, yet still not deleted, rhyme). It’s not necessarily my happy place, but more my place to gather up all the scattered marbles and attempt to put them (momentarily) back in my pocket. Love, deceit, illness, stress, grief, birth, identity, anxiety, insomnia ... it's all there and it all has the chance to be free within the bind. It is with these shared experiences that we are a true collective of human beings. Yes, we want to share our craft and make a living from what we would otherwise be doing with our time anyway, but it is deeper and rawer than that. I think it's about overcoming our collective human fault – as Ekhart Tolle puts it – to put our ego and identity aside and leave room to create with each other and learn from each other.

My contribution to this collective is an attempt at nuanced expression through words. My craft is to write. I look forward to each new brief; the piece's unique theme, the tone that is you and your vision. Most of all, I look forward to giving the words back and working together to make good art.

Here is a link to Gaiman’s speech if you are interested and have 20 minutes (which I know is a big ask for creative entrepreneurs):

My TPC listing can be found here:


She found space in the periphery of the ocean,

the movement and freedom of the shell, each piece of sand that flew even further.

She avoided the rocks to invite as much space as available,

to escape from any permanence possible of tying her down.

She was the sand; she was the water, but only at the edge and only for now.


Eventually, the clouds found her, even on the margin of the body.

The clarity became murky; the sand was sharp.

Her penchant for avoidance no longer assisted the crave of escape.


She shuffled away from the edge.

And this time she didn't avoid the rocks,

she sat between them as if they could anchor her to something that was certain.

So her body would be armoured; her mind would escape as it always has.


NB: "Escapism is a constant pursuit and one that meanders between available and undesired. This piece is a little bit about the fluidity of the word and how, no matter how far towards the edge you go to find space, your mind will follow – In this case, permanency of body can offer some comfort when the mind is hell-bent on escapism."


When I see a deep expression of nature I breathe deep, whole. It's not a new concept and I don't know where my truth is in it - I feel like every Instagram post about nature is about connection and peace - but maybe that's it. Maybe it is our collective human commonality, that to be in nature is to breathe with every cell of your body; your eyes bulge with the breath filling them up like enlightened balloons, your belly swells bigger than when incubating new life, your finger tips tingle as if puffs of air are escaping from every line in their print, your nose points to the sky with pores that are open enough to take in a particle of light that may seem insignificant but is really the whole universe warming your face.

Nature is a pulse of life and being in it just means that your presence is whole again. You are not trying to find a filling prophesy amongst buildings that were once someone's art and expression but are now just a page in a resume portfolio and a deterioration of bricks and mortar built with a desire to be anywhere else than amongst the dust and debris of sterility.

The expression of nature may not matter either, like food. It is just fuel. Some people prefer sweet and smooth to savoury and spicy, others prefer a warm sunset to a white-washed mountain but they are all fuel in their full spectrum of expression. It is air, it is life, it is nature, it is breath. 

It moves, it rustles, it plays, it dances. It runs and hides and escapes and wanders. It is whatever you want it to be and tonight, with a simple green scene on a laptop in a small house in a city, I would like it to be poetry.


The #NoFilter campaign for UNICEF brought the location into the darkroom, using the film development process to give meaning to its message. Water from the highly polluted Saigon River was used to develop analog portraits of children who live in areas around the river, highlighting the dangers of their living conditions. “I wanted to shoot young children to emphasize their innocence in this polluted environment … to highlight the impact and suffering,” says portrait and advertising photographer, Teo Chai Guan.

The shoot took place at several locations in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and while research and location scouting could take place in advance, the portraits were completely dependent on who the team managed to find on the day. Teo describes this, as well as a 10-year hiatus from using film, as just one of the many challenges he encountered.

Like most photographers, Teo had never used un-filtered water to develop film before and described the process as a science experiment. “We collected samples of various grades of polluted water along different parts of the river and each type of water gave different effects. It was always an anticipation to see how each photograph turned out,” describes Teo.

This powerful UNICEF campaign, for their WASH program, won 2 Bronze Lions and Eurobest 2016.

Campaign: #NoFilter
Client: UNICEF
Agency: FCB Happiness Saigon, Vietnam
Photographer: Teo Chai Guan
Chief Creative Officer: Geoffrey Hantson
Creative Director: Paul Busschau
Producer: Huynh Tram

Article published in Capture Magazine.


Rather than simply receiving a brief from an Advertising agency, photographer Mathieu César finds it imperative to be involved in the concepting stage of an idea in order to create images that convey the final message. This cohesion is clearly evident in the ‘Revolution’ campaign for AIDES, (launched on World AIDS Day) which aims to dispel fear and isolation, and reduce the stigma of HIV pathology in sexual relationships. “I love that I was able to be involved in this campaign and use my photography to share important core values,” says César.

In order to create the perfect shot for each campaign, César described the project as a balance between adventure and caution. “We were afraid that this campaign would offend people,” he says. “We needed to convey the correct message with the correct image, [therefore] I needed to catch the perfect moment when the desire and the emotions are in perfect cohesion with the position and the location.”

All four images of the campaign were created with César’s signature black-and-white aesthetic, but keeping their unity with such different scenes was a challenge. “The indoor images were shot in studio, while the diving scene was specially constructed in a studio swimming pool in Paris and the parachute image was shoot on location at the Lagon Bleu,” he says without revealing the beach’s specific location in an effort to retain its anonymity. “We managed to keep the same team, as well as the same gear on each shoot to create a consistent campaign with limited post-production work.”

Campaign: Revolution
Client: AIDES
Agency: TBWA Paris
Executive Creative Directors: Benjamin Marchal, Faustin Claverie
Art Directors: Sébastien Skrzypczak, Morgane Alexandre
Photographer: Mathieu César
Production : Iconoclast Image

Article published in Capture Magazine.

the art of copywriting

For some people it's skydiving, for others, it's public speaking, and for a mere few there is a fear of a blank page and the blinking cursor mocking every attempt at a keyboard strike. For me, however, there is a melodic, almost meditative feeling that joins me while I write. The best way I can describe it is that I feel like a pianist with my fingers working tirelessly to create a new piece, to create art if possible. This feeling is probably unique to those who have decided to pursue writing as a career, but the fact is that, while we don’t all have to be pianists, we do all have to be able to write with some legible quality in our everyday lives.

In marketing terms, we write to a brief. This means that all the creative people are singing the same tune and ensuring that the work stays ‘on brand’. This brand is something that is unique to your business and, if Breadbox Marketing has had anything to do with it, you will know your brand’s tone, style, audience, and personality. Having this knowledge is the first part of writing anything for your business and creating a piece that communicates your brand correctly. Does your brand use abbreviations or is it more professional? Can you use slang or puns? Would you ever reference pop culture – does your audience care about the recent Kanye West and Taylor Swift spat?

Once you have the personality of your brand figured out, and the rules that surround it, then there is the need to execute that in a way that sounds articulate. My advice: dedicate time to writing and get into the ‘zone’. Writing needs a certain part of the right side of the brain activated and that means creativity, so try music to get things started. When it comes to our more left-minded friends, let me give you a very logical tool to think about when articulating your thoughts – active sentence structures are almost always preferred.


Active: Subject, predicate (verb), object

Passive: Object, predicate (verb), subject


Active: Kayne West tricked Taylor Swift

Passive: Taylor Swift was tricked by Kanye West

*See, our brand can clearly reference Taylor and Kanye without a problem.


Okay, with that semi-figured out, then there is the question of narrative mode and narrative structure. The choice of narrative mode (I, we, you, or they) will largely come down again to your brand’s style, but it will also depend on what you are writing. Whichever mode you choose, just stay consistent!

Taking your readers on a journey is also very important. Every good piece of writing will do it – from a social media post to a tender submission. This is what we call narrative structure, and it can mean the difference between a good piece of writing and a bad one. We can almost guarantee that readers are bored; with the abundance of material thrown at us every day, we are starved for a bit of suspense and a need to go on a journey to stay engaged. Don’t say everything in the first sentence, spend time setting the scene for your readers and get to the point succinctly soon after. Which social media post are you more willing to like? My bet is on the one with the considered narrative structure (or you will shy away for the topic of pelvic floor altogether and skip this section):

a) With your baby getting heavier and wrigglier every week, it’s important that your focus doesn’t completely shift away from you. Listen to your body’s aches and pains and seek guidance from a physiotherapist to help you strengthen your abdominal and gluteal muscles and pelvic floor. + Share image of mother and baby.

b) Visit a physiotherapist to help you strengthen your abdominal and gluteal muscles.

Yes, there is more to being a good writer than just getting the apostrophe in the correct place. Although if I see another university graduate mixing plural spelling with possessive spelling then I'm throwing in the towel right now! – Happy writing.

'war at home'

Taking its name from the shocking statistic that 22 American war veterans commit suicide every day, Mission 22 gave the issue a name, but not a face. The War at Home campaign shows the empty living rooms, bedrooms, garages, and hallways where soldiers are dying from suicide. “I wasn’t always photographing the exact place where the suicide happened,” explains conflict photographer David Guttenfelder. “I walked through their homes and their neighborhoods, which really had become their personal battle spaces. These otherwise-mundane places took on a darker, more ominous feel.”

After returning from 20 years in war zones himself, Guttenfelder’s focus had not been on advertising or architectural photography. “A traditional documentary photographer would approach this very differently. Mission 22 built a bold campaign around a clear point of view. With print, web, TV, social, billboards, they started a broad conversation. I learned a lot. These are approaches I might also bring to my editorial work in the future.” During the three-week production, he had to face his own feelings about coming home from war. “My career covering war helped me connect with the grieving families. I felt I had a strong bond with them. I’d even been on the same front lines with some of these veterans who’d taken their own lives.”

The campaign took home a Bronze at the Cannes Lion Awards for PR Campaigns. The team is now exploring how they can begin the next phase of the campaign.

Photographer: David Guttenfelder.

Article published in Capture Magazine.