How I got my first job in advertising (Third and final part)


Read part one and two first. While I stood in one corner of the room, by the balcony, overlooking Thane, my friend lay lazy in bed. We were brainstorming ideas to get me a foot in the door at an advertising agency. He was hosting me for the weekend while I was in-between places. He worked full-time, as a copywriter.

By midnight we had zeroed in on a unique email address. One catch-all destination for my job-hunting adventures. Wait for it. Ready? Pen is my dear at Gmail dot com. Yep! That was going to be my address for correspondence. No matter the reaction I would hold a deadpan frame reassuring folks it was “Pen. Is. My. Dear. At. Gmail. Dot. Com.” ensuring awkwardness.

Inspired by Neil French and David Ogilvy, that week, I began working on my elevator pitch. The intended impact I had in mind was “copy” nerd. I scripted several iterations and put together my first prototype. I shared it with my friends and they felt it was silly and funny.

It’s the reaction I was hoping for and the only push I needed to go all in.

After spending an afternoon, manually cutting cards, at a local print shop the copywriter’s business card was born. Armed with a new email address and business card I began to approach agencies.

paulsyng_vc_one paulsyng_vc_two

Here’s what I did differently this time around. Instead of sending emails and cold calling companies, I showed up to the agency’s door and requested receptionists to hand deliver the card to the Creative Director.

I got noticed and heard for the first time. Thus began a meaningful dialogue with the agency world. I ended up joining Wunderman to work as a junior copywriter on the airline account only to quit months later to start my own agency.

More on that soon.

Note: I made minor alterations to the artwork: Updated the email and phone no. I don’t use now.


How I got my first job in advertising (Part two)


Read part one first. Before the one bedroom hall kitchen there was a room. Not just any room. It was a classroom at the end of a hallway on the third floor of a school. Yeah, thats right. You heard me right.

The room was divided into three parts, appropriated with a bed without sheets, a temporary bathroom the size of a port-a-potty and a bucket for bathing, a little kitchenette and common area littered with plastic furniture.

There were two windows, the one in my room looked into the corridor and the one in the common area overlooked a terrace with trees for pubic hair. On days when the moon took centerstage that terrace begged to be used for dating.


This makeshift arrangement was meant for temporary guests of the school. But, by any stretch of imagination, this wasn’t anything more than a roof over my head. There were no kitchen supplies either so I’d eat “pure” vegan food and champion a glass of watermelon juice down a neighbouring restaurant.

“Bathing twice in the night to stay cool under the breath of an aged ceiling fan was my version of a wet dream. It was fucking hot. I slept topless, knickers torn.”

I’d be woken up to the incessant chatter of pubescent kids in the hallway and classroom inches from my door. On occasions, when I slept in, I’d be greeted by stares and giggles through the corridor window. With the staircase on the other end of the hallway I’d have to walk across all the classrooms on the third floor every morning.

A stretch best described to walking across a railway platform with bogeys stuffed with kids- preparing for departure. Little had they known, for some of us, the next station was beside science class.

“Did I mention schools smell funny? And it was hot and humid in Mumbai at the time. Most of my batchmates felt I was a princess and borderline pretentious. Don’t fucking think so. Pretentious one hundred percent. Back to the story.”

While I was struggling to stay afloat, my friends (who were, also like me, struggling to find work) and I had decided to keep spirits high and not lose sight of our goals. Every other evening we’d gather at The Queen’s Necklace (Marine Drive for those virgin to Mumbai) to share each other’s stories. We’d laugh the hardest by the sea. It was medicative. Unperturbed by agency rejections, we’d keep our pencils sharpened at all times.

Our evening theatrics entailed fantasies of conquering the agency world, earning accolades and awards, and driving BMWs. We were a bunch of pompous kids with only chewing gum in our pockets. Those days ended at Crystal, a Punjabi food restaurant, before boarding a local from Churchgate station. I think it was Punjabi.

Kindly note only I wanted a BMW. The other guy wanted a Porsche. Trust me, you don’t want to know what the third guy had in mind. A horse. He wanted a fucking horse. Told you so.

Every night I’d show up to a deserted school with a security guard perched at the gate. We’d become accustomed to crossing paths at such odd hours. With all the kids gone there was only deafening silence. I’d walk up a flight of stairs to the third floor and walk down the hallway towards the end of my path. Spooky as fuck. I knew I had to stay strong and not let the weight of my backpack get to me.

The final part coming shortly.



How I got my first job in advertising (Part one)


The bell to our one bedroom hall kitchen rang. We were expecting burgers and fries from McDonald’s this afternoon. But, this wasn’t your regular delivery.

There was a catch.

My roommate and me were jobless and broke as fuck. No advertising agency was willing to hire virgin copywriters. I was told repeatedly that I lacked creativity. During this period of financial adversity we began to creatively approach our cash. We had struck a deal with the delivery guy from McD.

Here’s the opportunity we saw, on a casual visit to a local McD, by observing the staff and operations. All the food (burgers, wraps and fries) that was prepared could only stay on the shelves (right behind the cashier, acting a divider to the kitchen) for a certain number of minutes- which was/is deemed fit for humanly consumption. Beyond the stipulated time, the food was discarded and replenished with a fresh stock.

On seeing this we couldn’t bear the thought of all this perfectly edible food being dumped into the bin- all while we were hungry and broke.

Btw. Hats off to McD for only serving customers “fresh” food.

On our way out we struck up a conversation with one of the staff members preparing to deliver food. He became our hook-up. On receiving a coded text message, he would bring us the discarded food (burgers, wraps and fries) in lieu of a decent tip.

A win-win for everyone, if you ask me. McD didn’t want anything to do with the wasted product (which was technically discarded because of time alone) and we were too high and broke to miss the opportunity.

As this routine continued we had put on several pounds. Only months into our hustle, it had become quite apparent health hazard so we had to fire our hook up.

It was hard to let go.

We made several phone calls, contacted everyone we could find in our combined network and sent our resume to every possible agency to no avail. But one fine day, my roommate got hired, scoring a job at an agency doing healthcare client work, leaving me to stare into the emptiness of our flat.

Bored and with nothing to do, I decided to revisit my resume. Long empty stare later I came to a conclusion. Clearly it wasn’t effectively conveying who I was and how passionate I was about copy. There had to be a way I could get the attention of Creative Directors so they would, at the least, meet me.

Being on their radar became my first, self imposed, creative assignment. I began to explore different ideas and constantly found myself going back to Neil French for inspiration and ideas.

I was a fan of long copy. I dreamt of doing long copy for several brands and winning awards. Naive is what I was. But that’s the one thing that worked in my favour.

Part two coming shortly.