The Digitas UK copywriter on making opportunities, the value of diverse inspiration and the importance of considering the audience, writes LBB's Josh Neufeldt
“Create your own opportunities.” It’s something that, no matter the industry, most people hear at least once in their lives. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. A quick Google search reveals many suggested tips and tricks for creating opportunities, but cases of success are fewer and further in between. Yet for Chesney Payet, copywriter at Digitas UK, it represents one of the most important lessons she learned during her first years in the business. That and of course, the value of building great relationships.
“Enthusiasm is contagious,” Chesney says. “If your clients can see your passion and excitement for their brand, they’re so much more likely to buy into your proactive ideas.”
For Chesney, her enthusiasm stretches back to her childhood. Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, she recalls that although her ‘dream job’ changed about once a week, she always knew she would end up working in the creative industry.
“I’ve been fascinated with stories and storytelling for as long as I can remember,” she says. “Growing up, I was genuinely obsessed with writing.”
But she adds that she actually studied design in advertising, which meant that she had minimal experience with copywriting before joining the Melbourne agency BD.
Chesney describes the experience as intimidating, stating that she felt like a fraud at times. But once she started out, she “realised that keenness and enthusiasm to learn are really the most important thing as a junior creative.”
This strategy has clearly been effective. Chesney has won numerous awards, from APAC Effies to AdStars, while working for brands like L’Oréal and Whiskas. But she says that one of her most memorable projects was in the form of a promotion for the Australian cordial brand Cottee’s. “I’ll never forget how excited I was to visit my local supermarket and see my copy plastered all over shelf wobblers.”
Chesney’s most career-changing piece of work, to her mind, was a project for L’Oréal skin cream. She says the project forced her to contend with challenges such as tight timelines, a tiny budget and the dermatologist central to the narrative dropping out at the last minute. With no ability to reshoot, Chesney recalls scouring through hours and hours of footage for a solution.
“I just sat down next to the editor and we worked through it together,” she says.
But the project turned out well. Not only was she more satisfied with the final edit than the original idea for the campaign, but the skin cream ended up selling out.
Nowadays, Chesney operates out of north London. She attributes some of her success to the environment. “I think it’s important as a creative person to expose yourself to new things all the time,” she says. “One of my favourite things about London is the fact that there’s always something new to explore. Whether it’s eating something incredible, watching a weird arthouse film, or learning about bioluminescence at the Natural History Museum.”
She added that these experiences contribute to her inspiration and ability to adapt within an ever-changing industry: “we’re lucky to be part of an industry that’s so dynamic. There is always something to discover, a new technology to get excited about, or a new platform to explore.”
In doing this, Chesney has learned the importance of understanding advertising from both a business lens and a consumer lens. She finds it important to consider that different consumers will see things differently, with various demographics taking special interest when an ad is more relevant to them. As a result, she strives to always write material that people will genuinely want to read. “If I’m making work that the nurses and teachers and hospitality workers in my life enjoy, that’s when I feel like I’m really on to something.”