Hunter Fine Talks Advertising and Constructing IKEA Furniture While High

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Hunter Fine is a copywriter and creative director based in Brooklyn, NY. A graduate of Miami Ad School, Hunter is currently freelancing and has previously worked at agencies such as Wieden + Kennedy and BBDO. In addition to creating award-winning campaigns for brands such as AT&T and MTV, Hunter also regularly works on side projects such as the web series Hikea and the satirical board game Escape from Hell. To learn more about Hunter and view his entire portfolio, visit www.hunterfine.com.


How did you start your career?

Well I knew I wanted to work in advertising, so I took an advertising class in college in Rochester New York. One of the teachers got me an internship for the place he worked in the studio as a creative assistant. Back then the studio was closer to the creative department, and I was cutting boards for presentations and basically assisted people for whatever they needed, and worked on their holiday Christmas card. They told me if I wanted to make it in advertising, that I really needed to work on my portfolio to get a real job - and they provided me the names of a few advertising post-grad schools. I eventually went to Miami Ad School, then got a job after graduation.


Did you find it difficult to initially network and build contacts in New York when you were not based there? If so, what did you do to remedy that?

Well I knew I wanted to work in New York, so made it a point to attend a few portfolio nights there. I attended the Art Directors Club portfolio review and the One Club portfolio review, where I met agency recruiters. I also sent out my mini-book (printed version of book - this was 16 years ago) to agency recruiters of places I wanted to work.


Having worked both as a freelancer and full-time at agencies like BBDO and Wieden + Kennedy, what are the pros and cons of each?

Full time is great because you develop relationships with brands and have ownership of the work you produce. Freelancing is also great because you can make you own schedule and it pays a little better - however freelance can be tricky, it's not for the anxious or the people who need to see everything followed through. I would suggest freelancing eventually between full-time jobs, but make sure the market is good for it. There were periods in the economy last year where agencies were holding back budgets so it wasn’t an ideal time to freelance, but that kind of thing goes in waves.


Of your recent non-advertising projects, like Hikea and Urban Traps, which are you most proud of and why?

My side projects are a way I can have creative control without a brand compromising creative integrity. After years of answering to people, side projects like Hikea and Urban Traps were a good creative outlet to make something that I thought was funny and get PR out of it. I suggest everyone do side projects, if not just for yourself, it helps add value to your portfolio and shows you can make ideas in other forms than the traditional style.


You’ve been a part of several campaigns that implement experiential advertising practices, such as the Coca Cola/Delta tray art project. Do you find these projects to be more exciting, difficult, or effective than traditional campaigns centered around print and digital spots?

I think every creative should be well rounded, and being able to come up with experiential advertising is just another tool to have. Making an art project in an airplane was fun, also setting up Snickers vending machines in places people make mistakes was fun. It’s not like they were easier or harder to produce, its just another way in to tell a brand story. It’s hard to tell if experiential is more effective than traditional advertising, but in today’s world if you make the news cycle, it’s just the same if you do a TV or experiential ad - in terms of talk value.


Who are your creative heroes?

This is a tough question, there are tons of people out there I respect. I’ve always liked Michele Gaudry’s work (but who doesn’t) and anyone who does stuff that’s handcrafted. When I was in school I was into Art Chantry and Sagmeister. These days I’m not so sure.


How do you get inspired when you run out of ideas?

It’s hard when you run out of ideas. I usually just keep writing until something new comes up. (Writing through the wall) Sometimes I also think of people I know in advertising and ask myself how they would approach the same problem.


What are student books commonly lacking these days, particularly copywriters?

I haven’t looked at a student book in a year or two since I was full time last, but I remember seeing a lot of case studies and not a lot of simple ideas. I would recommend anyone, even if you have a case study - to have a solid tagline or 10 word sentence that describes your project - because the last thing creative directors want to do is watch a portfolio of case studies. In my day, we had 7 print campaigns (before digital was a thing) and it was easy to flip through and see ideas. Also if you’re a writer, make sure you have writing in your book - whether that’s a headline campaign, or something of that nature.


What advice would you give to a copywriting student hoping to land an internship at an agency?

I would make sure all your work is easy to navigate on your website, with the campaign idea or execution idea clearly written out. Also, pick the places you want to work and create work they would like.


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Nick Gonzales is a fourth year advertising student in the Texas Creative sequence at the University of Texas at Austin. He’s a copywriter who enjoys pop music, realistic fiction, and foods that are uncomfortably spicy. www.nickjgonzales.com