Close-Up: Copy test aims to reveal who has the write stuff

In the good old days, you didn't need to have a fancy advertising degree or know your signs from your signifiers in order to get a job as a copywriter in advertising - you just had to successfully fill out a copy test.

Simple? Hardly. First, you meet a scary creative director, then you're thrown in a cupboard for an hour to answer what appear to be nonsensical questions about anything from aliens to chocolate bars. Or your own obituary - which, at the time, you may wish was going to be published sooner rather than later.

The copy test has fallen out of favour in recent years - a point illustrated by the huge number of adland's top creatives who declined the chance to answer a few of the questions in the IPA's new copy test and then have them printed in Campaign. Or were they just scared?

However, three hardy souls agreed and here are the results. And just to make it more interesting, Robin Wight, the president of The Engine Group, has given his thoughts on their responses (without them knowing).

Sorry, lads.


Mars Bars or Snickers?

In the final analysis it'll come down to this. When you're standing in front of those Pearly Gates it's not going to matter what kind of life you've led or how moral or religious you've been. When St. Peter asks you "Mars Bars or Snickers?" be aware that the rest of eternity will hinge upon your reply. Answer Mars Bars and you will swiftly find yourself in one of hell's unending orgies. Veiny, phallic, unrelentingly sweet, Mars Bars are, of course, wrong. It's pleasure you can't measure and where's the fun in that? No matter how good the orgy is, all you're left with in the end is the feeling that you've been in some way violated. Without that little hint of savoury there can be no redemption. Snickers, on the other hand, have nuts in them. Never mind the 1,700 calories. You're eating nuts here and nuts, as we all know, grow on trees. Or is it bushes? They are of this earth anyway. They are clean and pure and in the end they will take you straight to heaven. Nuts lend Snickers a respect Mars will never know. You just wouldn't try to deep fry a Snickers bar would you? It'd be like pissing on your granny's grave.

What three things would you take to a desert island? And why?

1. A fully crewed Pelorus super yacht.

2. Enough Cristal Brut to sink said super yacht.

3. All my closest friends.

I'm not really the Robinson Crusoe type.

In a drunken stupor, you decide that you must have a tattoo. What design would you select?

I was in a drunken stupor in Thailand, many years ago, and did indeed decide that I wanted a tattoo. I managed to select a gecko before promptly passing out in the tattooist's chair. The tattooist decided to let me sleep it off before proceeding. I am forever in his debt.


This response to "Mars Bars or Snickers?" reveals a sophisticated intelligence that might find a career in advertising potentially frustrating. But the verbal fluency shown suggests that he/she has the skills to write on mundane topics. Curiosity and imagination are both in evidence in the answer to "What three things would you take to a desert island?". Suggest you call Leon Jaume at WCRS for a job interview straight away.


Mars Bars or Snickers?

This isn't a question any normal, well-balanced person would ever have to ask. It's Snickers every time. The Mars is the solid, original, unimaginative chocolate bar. It's done nothing wrong but it's simply been left behind. Yes a Mars will fill you up but so will eating a duvet.

How would you encourage seven- to 12-year-olds to eat a proper breakfast every day?

I would put pictures of morbidly obese people and the lardy breakfasts they eat on the back of all cereal packs. That way, as kids munch their way through healthy stuff, they are faced with a revolting reminder of what could happen if they defect to the dark side.

What would you like to be remembered for?

My scrambled eggs take some beating.

What is courage?

Agreeing to do the IPA copy test in 45 mins to help Campaign.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I have no intention of growing up. My granny is 102 and she always says in her head she feels about 25, which is perfect because it was an age when she knew enough but didn't think she knew everything.

What does your signature say about you?

That I have very child-like handwriting and my name is Ben Priest.


This applicant has a well-constructed, taut response to "What does your signature say about you?". But other answers to questions such as "What would you like to be remembered for?" have a worrying glibness about them. Clearly, this is a senior member of the industry rushing out a response to a Campaign deadline rather than a young hopeful trying to get his first copywriting job. So answering "What is courage?" with "Agreeing to do the IPA copy test in 45 minutes to help Campaign" is witty. But perhaps points to a career in joke writing rather than advertising.


Write your own obituary

Lincoln. Simpson. Baginsky. The list of great 'Abes' is even shorter than that of Italian war heroes but nobody could doubt their impact on Western culture.

Born Abraham Henry Baginsky in Watford, Hertfordshire in 1981, Abe's early years were happy and seemingly uneventful. A distinguished school career was marred only by an unfortunate incident involving a Ladbrokes, Dave's 'dead-cert' and the entire production budget for Mother Courage. A subsequent degree in Drama at Birmingham University rounded off his successful, if rather camp, education. From there, Baginsky pursued a glorious career in copywriting, though his heart begged him to pursue the performing arts. Thankfully, he obliged.

It would be a chance meeting at Tamworth Snowdome, in the summer of 2009, with Uma Thurman and Sandi Toksvig that would change Baginsky's life forever. The trio clicked instantly and formed the eponymous theatre company, 'Manvigsky'. Their first production, a three-man Brechtian interpretation of "Deuce Bigalow - Male Gigolo", was critically acclaimed, though the sequel; a Chekhovian "European Gigolo", was panned by critics as 'puerile' and 'lacking the integrity of the original film'.

These commercial successes paved the way for greater triumphs. Few who saw "Angela Merkel - The Musical" left the theatre with dry eyes and by the time "Gestapo!" hit the West End, Manvigsky was the hottest ticket in town. However, as with so many before them, love proved a destructive ingredient in their creative biscuit.

By the time Baginsky and Thurman married at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic games, Toksvig had had enough. She left the troupe and returned to Radio 4. Without Toksvig's eye for detail and, crucially, her Health and Safety training, industry insiders predicted failure.

Indeed Baginsky's final act came during rehearsals for their first show without the Dane; the now infamous "All Creatures Great and Small Revue". A 'stage cow' combusted during the birthing scene and Abe was killed instantly. He left this world much as he had entered it, naked, screaming and drenched in amniotic fluid.

He is survived by widow Uma and their two children, Agamemnon and Barbara Barber Baginsky.


Could I work out from this submission if the writer is the next John Webster? Not a chance. Which is really a judgment about the IPA's 35 questions rather than a judgment on the writer. Yes, it has got some funny twists. But whether he could write an ad for BMW I couldn't possibly guess. As this is clearly an accomplished advertising person, the test devised by the IPA clearly isn't working.