It won’t be a surprise to anyone who knew Rebecca Worley growing up that she’d end up writing for a living. As a kid she really enjoyed school, especially English and Drama. She always loved creative writing and coming up with stories, which is not a million miles away from what she does now as a copywriter at independent creative agency Five By Five in Southampton, on the UK’s south coast.
As a kid Becky would spend “every spare minute” reading to the point where she’d even get told off for reading at the dinner table – “such a rebel!” she jokes. She was always escaping to fantasy worlds: Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Northern Lights. “I was secretly hoping for my letter to Hogwarts for far too long…”
Always chatty, Becky’s always got something to add to a conversation. “If you get me started on something it’s quite hard to shut me up,” she says. “I can be quite impulsive so I have to remember to slow down and think about things properly sometimes. I’d like to think I’m a pretty cheery person most of the time.”
She went to the University of Surrey and studied English Literature and Creative Writing (“no surprises there!”) and she particularly enjoyed the creative freedom of her dissertation.
After graduating Becky knew advertising was an industry in which she could continue to pursue her creativity, but like so many, she didn’t know exactly what that entailed or how to go about it. She interviewed for a week long IDM (Institute of Data & Marketing) Summer School placement. The process allowed her to work on a brief and present back to representatives of several London agencies. “It was a great way to learn about the industry and get a foot in the door,” she says.
Her first job was at an agency, but on the account handling side. She soon worked her way up and became a producer at Five by Five.
In late 2019, when a copywriting opportunity arose at the same company she already enjoyed working for, she grabbed the chance. “I knew it would be a huge step for my personal fulfilment to make the career change. So, I interviewed and thankfully got the job! Now that I’ve made the leap I look back and think I was crazy for not pushing for it sooner.”
Alongside her career change Becky attended a D&AD Introduction to Copywriting workshop which she found was a great help. It was led by Will Awdry, who started his career as an account handler before moving into copywriting and has gone on to work at some of the UK’s best agencies and win a heap of awards. “For all of that incredible experience he was also really down-to-earth,” she says.
A lot of Becky’s first copywriting jobs were radio scripts, which she relished. She appreciated the chance to work on a format that relies on copy and it was fast-paced and enjoyable - “a great way to get started in the new role.”
The favourite part of her job is seeing something she’s written come to life, whether it’s a video she scripted or hearing an ad on the radio that she wrote. “The novelty hasn’t worn off and hopefully it never will,” she says.
Becky definitely still considers her craft far from honed, but she’s grateful for how much she’s able to learn from the team at Five by Five, especially her line manager and mentor who she says is “especially patient with me and has taught me a lot already.”
Her advice to other aspiring copywriters would be: “There’s a lot you need to take on the chin and learn from – don’t wallow in the idea that you got something wrong, take criticism on board and do it better next time.” She knows this can be hard because you get attached to your work, but trusts that other people’s perspectives will help you mould it into something better.
A challenge she’s often frustrated by is when brands have different ideas about the work they want to do versus the work Five By Five wants to do as an agency. “Most of the time I think we can meet in the middle,” she says, “but when ideas are written off that you think have real potential it’s a shame.”
Settling into a new career just a few months before the world got turned upside down by coronavirus has left Becky with mixed emotions during lockdown. The instability of the industry initially caused stress, and she admits “it’s easy to let that brew when you’re stuck at home”. But overall she appreciates she’s been incredibly lucky with her situation and as the industry starts to pick back up she’s feeling positive about the future.
During lockdown in 2020 she also had a chance to work on projects she wouldn’t usually due to workload. Branching out from copywriting and working on a “fluent device” for one of Five by Five’s brands was the moment she realised she wanted to keep developing her skills beyond copywriting alone.
In terms of the clients she wants to work with, Becky’s excited by brands that she really believes in and that contribute towards social good. She loves seeing advertising campaigns of challenger brands that are emerging all over the place in today’s tumultuous market. “They have smaller budgets, so they have to be so much more creative to capture our attention and steal market share from bigger brands.”
Conversely, she can’t abide by lazy advertising, especially from brands with big budgets who aren’t pushing their brand forward or saying anything new. “Established brands have a platform to say something more interesting than just talking about their products and prices,” she says.
Another disappointing aspect of the advertising industry for Becky is how it represents different kinds of people. “It’s come a long way, but I still think the industry has more work to do to tackle stereotypes,” she says. “Some brands just don’t try at all, while some others do it in a way that doesn’t feel genuine at all. The Bodyform #wombstories campaign did this so well by delving into the personal experiences of real women with honesty and humour.”
Based just outside of Southampton, in between the city and the New Forest, the balance of that environment suits Becky just right. The main reason she enjoys being based outside of London is that, for her, the best way to decompress is being outdoors. She usually spends her spare time in the forest or at the coast – “it makes me feel instantly calmer and happier, and the fact that there’s plenty of pubs around helps too.”
The copywriter’s always got comedy shows on the go. She has an appreciation for the skill to be able to make people laugh, whether in sarcastic British comedies like After Life and The Thick of It, as well as American sitcoms like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Parks and Recreation. “I think it translates into advertising,” she says. “When brands have a sense of humour and can bring a smile to someone’s face they create a connection and it’s so much more memorable. Oatly do this perfectly with their tone of voice.”
Becky’s aims aren’t about world domination, but she knows where she wants to be. “It sounds really twee but I just want to be happy. If it’s not making you happy, why are you doing it? I like to learn new things and push myself, and make sure I have experiences I can look back on and smile about when I’m older. How soppy.”
That may be a bit soppy, but the novel that she’s had in her head for years and fully intends to make a start on soon is far from it. It’s a depressing dystopian fiction, which might be a hard sell in 2021, she recognises. “I’m not sure that’s what the world needs right now!”