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The Multifaceted World of Copywriting With R/GA’s Robyn Tenenbaum

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The ACD on her creative journey, inspirations and passions

The Multifaceted World of Copywriting With R/GA’s Robyn Tenenbaum

Robyn Tenenbaum, associate creative director of R/GA Portland speaks about shifting from contributor to leader, saying “yes” more often, and her love and hate relationship with copywriting.


Q> Tell me about your career path. What brought you to R/GA?

Robyn> I was always very creative as a kid. I’d colour, sketch, and binge-watch copious amounts of HGTV (before binge-watching was a thing), and then come up with elaborate room designs of my own. And when I wasn’t clipping out Pottery Barn tablescapes out of the catalog, I’d stay up past my bedtime typing out short stories onto a computer so old, the printer paper came with perforated edges. I would also act out said stories using Barbies, American Girl dolls, and my brother’s Hot Wheels. This weird love for design and writing kinda-sorta just blended together over the years and led me to a major in college that also uncannily blended together art and words: advertising. And in some serendipitous way, copywriting fell into my lap.

I ended up graduating from the renowned Texas Creative portfolio program out of the University of Texas at Austin. After one too many 100-something-degree summers, I moved to Chicago where I got my first agency job at Digitas. I made some cool stuff, won some awards, worked on some great brands, and made my way to Boulder, CO to work at Crispin Porter + Bogusky. I made more cool stuff, won some awards, and worked on other great brands. I worked my way up, learned from some of the best, and decided to keep moving out West. I didn’t mean for that to rhyme. I was drawn to R/GA Portland for a few reasons: I wanted to work with brands like Nike, be surrounded by people who are a lot smarter than me, make even cooler stuff, and be in a position to teach people the things I’ve learned along the way.


Q> What do enjoy most about copywriting? What are the biggest challenges? 

Robyn> “unless it comes out of

your soul like a rocket,

unless being still would

drive you to madness or

suicide or murder,

don't do it.

unless the sun inside you is

burning your gut,

don't do it.”

                 —Charles Bukowski

This poem called “So You Want to be a Writer,” essentially sums up everything I feel about copywriting. Writing invigorates me. Frustrates me. It’s gratifying. It’s maddening. I am passionate about it. I hate it with a passion. What I enjoy most about copywriting is that I earn a living while doing something I love, which also makes it challenging.


Q> What makes you the most excited about a project you are working on/have worked on?

Robyn> When I get a strong insight, it makes the back of my knees itch because I get an incredibly powerful sense that it is so true. Also, when I have an idea that I’m so jazzed about, my hand will barely be able to keep up with my brain telling me to write everything down. Sometimes when the idea itself feels new and fresh and uses a cool platform or integrates so seamlessly with technology, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen done before. That’s what gets me the most excited.  


Q> What are some of the biggest growth moments for you?

Roybn> I’ll get waves of these existential moments when I realize that I’m the one giving creative direction, not taking it. Where I’m the one leading the presentation, not just sitting in it. Where I’m the one who’s accountable for the work, not just contributing to it. Where I’m the one creating the kind of work I used to study in college. 


Q> What would you say one should do to maintain creativity?      

Robyn> Do more of the things you like. Get out of the office. Travel. Listen to music. Go to the movie, or rewatch old favorites. You've Got Mail featuring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks will forever be my top choice to rewatch. Watch bad TV. Get off your phone. Read a book––and finish it! My favorite authors are Joan Didion and Rupi Kaur, and my go-to genre is historical fiction. Pet puppies. Cook. Bake. Eat. My advice is: say “yes” to things more often. The most recent huge “yes” moment for me was moving across the country for my job!


Q> Do you have any passion projects outside of work? 

Robyn> I’m far too restless to be involved with only one project, but I do dabble in lots of passions outside of work. I’m into photography, reading, woodworking, writing poetry, yoga, eating, traveling, and dreaming up apps that probably already exist.  

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R/GA New York, Mon, 04 Nov 2019 11:48:25 GMT