Heat up the branding iron

or how Henry misinterpreted lukewarm as cool

A crucial step in my seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER involved making sure that everyone in London knew I was the coolest kid in Hackney.

Out of 32 London boroughs, Hackney was definitely the coolest (how isn’t being 98% over the European legal limit for nitrogen dioxide emissions a middle finger straight up at the man?) and if I managed to become the coolest kid in Hackney, I’d probably be the coolest kid in London.


Actually, it wasn’t.

I didn’t appreciate the challenge I’d set myself until I took a long look in the mirror.

Standing in my mirror staring spot I said, “mirror mirror, oh what do I see?

Knowing the answer, I gave it, “a 28 year old with great hair.

Suddenly an evil voice emanated from the frame, “look closer. What do you see?

A little confused, I replied, “unwavering determination?

The same voice hissed, “look closer and up a bit.

Then I saw it. I must have missed it because it wasn’t there – a hairline about to sink from mild recession into a deep and tragic depression. And this time the economy definitely wasn’t going to pick up – I didn’t have a job.

The priorities had changed. I needed a Turkish hair transplant stat. But before I could do that, I needed money.

Ah, money. For money I needed a job.


Ok, the plan was back on. The parameters had just changed a bit.

I was going to have to become cool but without any hair.

Was that even possible?

Who’s the coolest bald guy?

I racked my brains.

Stumped, I put my favourite thinking record on, Sonic Youth’s Kill Yr Idols.

The title track roared:

I don’t know why,

You want to impress Christgau,

Ah let that shit die,

And find out a new goal.

Then it hit me.

The coolest guy in the world without any hair was Robert Christgau. You know, that guy who wrote all of those mean album reviews for Village Voice and publicly admitted that he knew nothing about music.

I didn’t know anything about music either! I was already qualified. PERFECT!

Robert Christgau almost bald
The self-ordained ‘Dean of American Rock Critics’ – ok, he’s got more hair than I let on. Maybe I wasn’t balding that much. (Photo by Joe Mabel – I found it on wikipedia)

And if I’d interpreted Sonic Youth’s lyrics correctly, he was so cool that even they hadn’t been able to impress him. I mean, he gave Confusion is Sex a C+ and that album’s radical.

I was going to emulate Robert Christgau. But how?

Becoming the dunce of British rock critics

To become the British Robert Christgau, I’d have to write music reviews.

But I didn’t know who any of the cool new bands were and had no desire to spend weekends scrolling through SoundCloud

Then it hit me.

I lived in London and there were loads of free gigs that only friends of the bands and weird groupies went to.

I could write reviews for those gigs!

It was a brilliant plan:

  1. Assuming I didn’t drink anything, it wouldn’t cost any money.
  2. It’d provide a ton of content for my great blog that’d make me look very, very cool.
  3. I’d be able to take pictures of grimy venues and put them on my Instagram account.
  4. Rolling Stone would probably give me a job and I’d be like that kid in the movie about the band who were in that aeroplane that falls out of the sky then the drummer tells everyone he’s gay (you guessed it, Almost Famous).

So I found three free gigs on Dice and went to them.

I then wrote about it here: Gig on Tuesday, Gig on Wednesday and Gig on Thursday.

I was becoming so cool already.

Then my father called.

Parents are made to inspire doubt


After picking up, my father just shouted at me.

Father Henry, “You need to stop doing those bloody music reviews Henry. They’re shit. It’s like you’re writing for Melody Maker.

I didn’t know what the Melody Maker was, but when he said that it was worse than NME I felt awful.

Why? Because NME’s a pile of shit and definitely not cool. I was worse than NME?! Surely not.

I took a look at NME’s best article ever, you know the one, their list of best 90’s EMO songs.

Jimmy Eat World before Jawbreaker?

I was reassured. Whoever wrote for NME was clearly an imbecile and I definitely wasn’t.

I still didn’t know what Melody Maker was though so I googled it.

Yes, Melody Maker was the Daily Telegraph of the music rags. I’m not even making this up, the editor actually wanted it to emulate the Daily Telegraph.

But, I mean, my music reviews weren’t overly long or complicated. I had an inkling that my father was acting out.

I was about to challenge him on it when my sister and mother said exactly the same thing: “Henry, you need to stop writing those music reviews. They’re just not very good.

Damn, all three of my readers had told me that half the content on my site wasn’t any good.

I took a moment to reflect. Looking over the reviews I just didn’t get what was wrong with them.

The exercise had even shown me how to publish threads on my new Twitter account.

What was going on?

Then I thought back to my copywriter training.

What did my readers have in common?

Understanding (and disregarding) your audience

Ohhh, yes! My father, my mother and my sister had never, ever been to a gig EVER and their favourite musicians were QT and Billy Bragg.

It was confirmed: their opinions didn’t matter!

I’d be damned if I was going to stop going to free gigs, drinking too much beer on a daily basis and writing bad music reviews about the bands I saw. 

Redemption sometimes comes in SMS (the joke doesn’t work if you don’t pronounce SMS as smeees. Get it? It sounds like threes)

And just as I realised that I was well on my way to becoming even cooler, I received a text from Dice.

I’d won tickets to All Points East.

Dice Tickets
I was sad. I really wanted to see the Courtneys.

The gods had spoken and they clearly wanted to read my review of everything that happened at All Points East.

I mean, it was clearly a sign and I couldn’t disappoint the gods now, could I?

Seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER

It was settled. I was going to become the greatest copywriter EVER.

How it started

Easy. I needed to lay some sturdy foundations and figure out exactly what copywriting was.

To the foundations!

And where do you learn about laying foundations? Wikipedia!

I looked up the definition of copywriting:

Copywriting is the act of writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. The product, called copy, is written content that aims to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action.

Copywriters help create billboards, brochures, catalogs, jingle lyrics, magazine and newspaper advertisements, sales letters and other direct mail, scripts for television or radio commercials, taglines, white papers, social media posts, and other marketing communications.

That was definitely manageable.

With an in depth understanding of copywriting I started looking for a new job.

Looking for that first copywriting job

I went straight onto LinkedIn (actually my girlfriend sent me some links. Impressed aren’t you? I’m getting pretty good at twisting the truth, aka advertising).

One position came out with a swift kick to the teeth: Junior Copywriter at Dr Martens.

Before I’d even read the ad I knew getting the job must be a piece of cake. Why?

  • People call those boots Doc Martens not Doctor Martens, hence it’s safe to assume that their head of advertising department can’t read and is highly incompetent.
  • They are probably desperate for a cool new, left-leaning junior with a lot of hair (yours truly) to help them shake off the image of skinheads and neo-nazis.

As my first potential position I knew I’d be more than happy to put in some extra work and help Dr Martens completely reinvent their brand for 2019.

Feeling confident, I looked at the job spec.

It was the first time I realised that copywriters are a pretentious as hell.

Getting my first ‘gig’ might prove difficult than I’d initially thought.

Take a look for yourself:

Doc Martens, Junior Copywriter

To be our Junior Copywriter, you will also possess the following:

  • Experience in a full-time copywriting role. Preferably in the retail, fashion or music industry
  • A love of music, DM’s, fashion and footwear
  • A track record of managing tight deadlines and multiple projects simultaneously
  • A passion for language and a flair for writing original, unexpected copy
  • Strong commercial awareness and knowledge of key copy KPIs
  • Enthusiasm and an inexhaustible supply of ideas
  • The confidence to tackle all forms of copywriting: from click-worthy captions to scroll-enticing articles
  • A degree-level qualification in a relevant subject such as English or Creative Writing

Damn the requirements were high and this was only for a junior role!

It presented a real problem.

I had no experience in a full-time copywriting role, I thought DMs (dungeon masters) were totally uncool, I was bemused by how words could have key performance indicators (‘boot’ needs to get at least 4,000 views today) and definitely did not have a degree in creative writing. Who does have a degree in creative writing anyway?

How the hell was I going to get a job like that?

I needed to tear down my soft, non-copywriting self and to begin rebuilding immediately. It was daunting but exciting – I was about to become the slickest creative machine in Hackney and I knew it would probably involve stickers.

So I decided to systematically strip myself down. The best way to do this: a foolproof seven point plan (to do list):

Henry’s seven point plan to become the greatest copywriter EVER

1. Do way more research

I needed to become fluent in the language of copy. Yes, I had to develop an understanding of advertising, marketing and all of the associated acronyms (CPM, CTA, IAB, SOV, SEO and more). I also needed to know something about psychology. Why? How else was I going to trick someone into giving me a job?

2. Get good at writing

I wasn’t immediately convinced that this was necessary but I knew that I needed to sell myself as more qualified to write than anyone else. To do that, I had to at least trick myself into believing that I’d got super good at writing. The first step was probably to write and read more. Decent outcome.

3. Develop a kickass portfolio

For a profession that spends all day playing with words it’s surprising that it can’t just take me on mine, but life’s confusing. I needed to develop a killer portfolio with a shed load of original and creative copy. It had to have the best adverts selling bubble mixture, jingles explaining the dangers of not eating enough carrots, all potentially topped off with a radio advert for the mayor on today’s most biting issue: public urination.

4. Get some experience (and references)

Just a portfolio wouldn’t cut it. I had to get some real experience so I had references. References would mean that other people would suddenly become accountable for my eventual employment. The easiest way to do that would probably be to do some writing for free. I needed to do some copywriting volunteering.

5. Find a special subject and stick to it

All the advice that I’ve read online says that generalist copywriters fail and copywriters with a special subject succeed. The problem was I didn’t know or really care about anything. The options were limited too. What subject can you specialise in as a copywriter? Trains, video games, legal regulations and hatred of men? I didn’t want to write about any of that. Then it struck me. I could write about technology or digital or ‘the internet‘. It seemed like a safe bet, as it could cover anything from sex dolls to how to talk to your toaster! Perfect.

6. Build a professional network

To secure work employers need to think you’re the real deal. Humans are social creatures so association with other humans is important. I was going to have to meet other copywriters and make friends with them. Maybe I could meet them at Westfield Shopping Centre? There are lots of things that need copy there.

7. Rebrand myself as the coolest kid in Hackney

The Doc Marten advert said it all: creatives need to be cool. I was already super cool, but deep down I knew that not everyone knew this. I was going to sacrifice some of my current cool to make sure that everyone found out (unfortunately self-promotion is not cool). I’d begin by developing a social media presence (here’s my instagram), take pictures of myself doing cool things and buy more thrash metal t-shirts.

It was settled. I should probably start.

What better place than Homerton Library?

I had a shower and set off.

My Very First Guide to Urinal Etiquette

Going to the men’s room is scary,” thus spake the foremost urinal expert.

Don’t feel ashamed. He’s an expert and it is.

So, as one of the foremost pillars of the community, today, I’m going to deconstruct one enormous restroom mystery, specifically, how you, yes you, can enjoy the fluid freedom of that porcelain wall: the urinal.

Shewees were invented to help men improve their aim when using urinals however as evidenced by most bathrooms, they are yet to saturate the market.

What’s a Urinal?

Apparently, the urinal is ‘a trough used to collect chewing gum, beer cans, urine and other assorted debris. The universal bastion of freedom.

They’ve been liberating men for centuries.


By allowing them to stand tall and proud while evacuating their bladders. You’ve always thought that it wouldn’t be possible to use one and be a proud specimen too.

Well, today I”m going to prove that you’re wrong and an idiot!

So let’s get to it! Here’s how to use a urinal.

1. Starting Out

In England, urinals are almost exclusively located in men’s restrooms. To find a urinal, you’ll have to venture into one.

My method of teaching is vocational, so for this to work you’re going to need to follow everything that I say, exactly.

If you’re not there already, get to your local pub, library, or place of work and find the men’s restroom.

Do it now.

Ok, so you’ve now found a restroom.

Stand in front of the door.

This bit can be intimidating, so before entering, I recommend that you do the following:

  • Take a deep breath, breathing freedom often involves pungent aromas
  • Imagine your father, mother, the state, or parental unit number four, looking down at you from heaven, brimming with pride
  • Celebrate your pioneer status. You’re about to set out into unchartered lands. If you succeed, academics of the future will probably upload videos about this great human feat

Now, with a tissue in hand for effect, kick open that restroom door and take your first step into the bathroom.

2. Locating the Urinal

Inside?! Great!

Now you need to identify the urinal.

It’s probably at the back.

There are different varieties so don’t be alarmed if it’s not what you expected.

I found some diagrams in a book which you may wish to reference during your expedition. If you’re on a road trip with children, it also doubles up as a great lure to help you abandon them at a service station.

pg. 15 of the AA, Lonely Truck Driver’s ‘Chronicles of the Road’

If you can’t immediately see the urinals, it could be because there are too many people in front of them. If this is the case, go over and check. Take a good look at what everyone’s doing; it’s a good way to assert your dominance.

Now that you’ve found the urinals, it’s time to find yours.

3. Finding the Urinal that’s Right for You

Everyone is different, so take some time to decide exactly which urinal is right for you.

When making the choice, you’ll want to consider this helpful advice.

When NOT to use that urinal:

  • You are not friends with the current user
  • The neighbouring urinal is occupied by someone bigger (taller and/or cooler) than you
  • The urinal is actually a person in disguise (arms and legs are the giveaway)
Dressing as a urinal is a traditional past-time for bankers. It seems to happen most frequently ahead of industry mandated drug tests. This is a picture of the Barclays’ CEO showing a group of interns how to do it properly!

When YOU CAN use that urinal:

  • The user is your friend (cross that stream now)
  • It’s vacant and decorated with an ‘Out of Order’ sign
  • The urinal block is free, or the other users are weedy and look like they’d be intimidated by your substantial might

4. Building Your Confidence / Getting Ready

Now you’ve found the urinal that’s right for you, you’ll want to start urinating!

But, be warned, this can be the most challenging part of the experience, so let’s cover an important issue.

Dealing with Avoidant Paruresis, or Shy Bladder

Avoidant Paruresis is a condition (that I definitely don’t suffer from) in which individuals find themselves unable to urinate in the real or imaginary presence of others. It’s particularly malignant in the public restrooms.

It’s a very personal issue, but I’ve found some great tips to help you overcome the condition:

  1. Drink more. The point of inebriation is normally a good time to enter the restroom.
  2. Seek moral support from strangers. Tell everyone around you that you suffer from shy bladder. Ask them to clap and cheer loudly when you start urinating.
  3. Practice with friends. Bumble Friends is a great way to meet new people who also suffer from Avoidant Paruresis. I think they’re the main people who use the app. Consider starting your own dedicated, collective restroom outing group. If not, go on Reddit or something.


Now that you no longer have shy bladder you’re almost ready to begin. However, before you break loose, to make the most of the experience, take a moment to consider some advanced techniques:

  • Are other people’s shoes within a splashable range? More importantly, are they wearing suede shoes? If you’ve found a pair standing next to you, you’re onto a winner! Don’t even aim for the urinal.
  • If other people are standing near you, are you fully appreciating their stream? When using the urinal, most people like to be watched. Make sure you bend down close and stare at the other user’s implement as much as possible.
  • Are people staring at you enough? If not, why not perform your very own rendition of Jawbreaker’s pop-punk classic, Fireman?

Finally, some tips for experts:

Would an imaginary or real targets elevate your experience?

With the help of a local school, I’ve developed some exciting targets that you’re more than welcome to use, free of charge to help make urinating more fun.

When using them, be sure to use the PCP method: Print, Cut & Position!

Targets can help you progress onto actual, living and breathing targets. How exciting! 

Now you’re ready to go!

Release the gates and realise your potential!

5. Finishing Up

Wow! You’ve now successfully used a urinal. Give yourself and your restroom comrades a pat on the back.

Now get the hell out of there.

When exiting don’t:

  • Wash your hands. Sinks in men’s restrooms are dirty and the magic of urinals means that you no longer need to wash your hands after urinating, ever again!
  • Look down at your bespeckled jeans. If you don’t draw attention to it, no one else will notice that you’ve got yourself wet.

If you have found this guide useful, please, send me a quick message.

I’d love to know where all the best urinals in London actually are and find them with you!