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Teachable moments from Mad Ave. vets

When Mat Zucker, former chief creative officer at OgilvyOne, was first starting out in the business, he had no idea what he was doing. He’ll be the first to admit it. All he knew was that he was a secretary with a dream—to become an ad copywriter.

When we’re young, we might be eager and passionate, but we don’t have the experience. That’s why Zucker dreamed up The Hindsight Project, an online video initiative that aims to dish out relevant advice and frank insights from successful—and quirky and interesting— professionals to the next generation, including memories of the mentors who helped them along career paths that were rarely predictable.

Zucker’s co-creators on the project are executive producer Andrea Leminske—she’s done work for Marie Claire, Google, and L’Oreal, among others—and director David Gaddie of The Colony.

The videos are simple, clean, and stripped down. Subjects speak directly to the camera, making straightforward and friendly eye contact. The point here is storytelling, personal narrative. Zucker tapped a wide range of professionals for his project, everything from hard-core digital types and creatives to account managers and managing directors.

“There’s a joy about sharing and you can see it in their eyes when they’re being interviewed,” Zucker says. “They’re really enjoying telling their story and what they learned from it—and that’s exactly what we’re looking for. Good stories.”

Zucker (left) points to what he calls a “knowledge gap” and the need to fill it with the mentorship that’s currently lacking in advertising.

“We’re not generally a reflective industry,” he says. “The idea here was to do something together to help fix that.”

In his own video, Zucker tells the story of his first-ever copywriting opportunity, which happened to be for egg substitute Egg Beaters. He plugged away like a champ—he says he even tried rhyming the word “yeast” with “beast” in one version—but nothing was right. His patient boss, who realized Zucker had no experience cooking, advised him to buy an armful of recipe and food-related books. As Zucker read, the experience sparked something in him. He realized that the adjectives being used in the books to describe food, like “liquid” and “fluffy,” were all about “romancing” the product and making it sound as delicious as possible. After that, his copy was spot on and that’s how he still thinks about copywriting today—as romance—whether it be ad copy for something sexy like cars or something less so, like financial services.

“What he did for me was unlock in me my potential,” Zucker says of his former boss. “Rather than just taking the assignment away or doing it himself.”

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