Q&A Interview with COMmunicator Alum Tara Thomson

Tara Thomson is a Boston University alum and is currently a copywriter at AMP Agency. She sat down with Virginia Bonilla to reflect on her time at BU and talk about her experiences in the agency world.

Photo courtesy of Tara Thomson.

Virginia Bonilla: Let’s jump right in, I saw you did your undergrad at the University of Florida in Gainesville, how did you end up at Boston University?

Tara Thomson: I originally was on the Journalism track at UF, but then I took this class called Big Ideas in Advertising as an elective, and I realized there’s such a fun creative component to this field. I loved it so much that I switched my major, and this was before the university had a student agency up and running, so it was a little more limiting in terms of getting real-world experience. I did a year-long internship at Disney with the A/B Testing department which was more focused on marketing. Then after that year, I looked for a creative-focused curriculum, especially with portfolio-based classes. I thought Boston University was the right fit for me, and I liked what the programs were offering in terms of the creative track, so that’s how I made my decision.

That’s great, so how would you describe your time at BU?

It was fast-paced, especially with the graduate program being three semesters, sometimes it seemed like you were running at full speed. For my first semester, it was a lot of getting the basics underfoot. I was a teaching assistant for COM 101, I was the managing editor of the COMmunicator, and an ACD on the copywriting side for AdLab, so a very packed schedule. I interned at a couple of places including MullenLowe during my last semester, so jam-packed comes to mind when remembering my days at BU. I had a lot of appreciation for my classes and my professors. I especially enjoyed my portfolio courses. There was a lot of great output produced from the class being set up as a workshop experience. 

How do you think your internships and your AdLab experience helped you develop as a copywriter?

I think my portfolio development courses taught me how to talk about my work. Not only how to develop it but more importantly how to present it to peers, as well as taking the feedback and being able to implement it. Which is something you’re gonna take into copywriting on a day-to-day basis. You’re going to write things four ways, and then they’re gonna ask you, “What about if you write it these 16 other ways?” I do think the agency environment in AdLab was very helpful. From my perspective as an ACD it was learning how to give that feedback and provide that context, and make sure the writers had all the resources they needed to fulfill the job order.

You started working at AMP agency in 2020, how would you describe your experience interviewing during the pandemic?

I think what’s lucky for a lot of people in our age bracket is that we’ve been doing Zoom interviews even before then. I went through three stages of interviewing. My first call was with human resources getting the logistics of the job down. Then, I had a joint interview with a senior copywriter and a VP of Creative, and then back-to-back interviews with the group creative director and a project manager. 

I think that’s something a lot of people have noted in the interviewing process lately. Why do you think there are so many more levels of interviewing nowadays?

I think that they wanted to make sure that I knew what I was applying for and what the day-to-day process was. AMP is a very well-oiled machine, and they have a lot of clear practices and communications, which I appreciated as an incoming candidate.

What project or client have you liked working on the most?

Currently, I work on Zillow, Stop & Shop, and Fujitsu and also on the new business side with pitching to prospective clients. Doing blue-sky ideas, so you go in with multiple copywriters and art directors and just try to come up with the best possible content. I will say that the new business projects have been an absolute blast. In terms of clients, I will say that Stop & Shop has been an incredibly open-minded client and what’s so fun about a grocery store brand is that there’s so much that falls under that umbrella despite the time of year, season, or occasion. Whether you’re writing for Halloween radio, which is super fun by the way, or if you’re doing spring cleaning, Stop & Shop has products for all of that. So I’ve really enjoyed working on this account, especially their digital radio. If you’ve heard any Stop & Shop ads on services like Pandora or Spotify, that’s probably been me for the last year.

How cool, I’ll be sure to be on the lookout. Finally, any piece of advice for emerging copywriters?

Build up your portfolio, even if it’s spec work. As long as recruiters can see that you can think strategically and can execute it. Make sure your work has a valid insight, taking that seed of information and seeing how you can make that flower bloom. As well as networking, which I know is harder in this virtual world but something like Coffee at a Distance, which is a seasonal program that pairs you with another creative where you can discuss your book and have an open-ended conversation with people in the industry. Also, just being observant, so staying up-to-date on what’s culturally relevant and looking at what other brands are doing. And a lot of writing! Write for yourself and really just find opportunities in your life where you can write outside of your job. Everything outside of work can still enrich your work.

Virginia Bonilla, Staff Writer

Virginia grew up in sunny Miami, Florida. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Advertising at the College of Communication. Prior to Boston University, she earned her B.S. in Applied Communications, Public Relations, and Advertising with a minor in Sociology from Florida International University in 2020. Virginia loves to travel and has already been to 7 countries and hopes to expand her horizons even further after graduation.

Nishtha Jadav, Senior Editor

Nishtha is a first-year advertising graduate student at Boston University’s College of Communication. She has a bachelor’s in Business and has previously worked in public relations, social media, and content writing. Passionate about storytelling, Nishtha loves metaphors and poetry. When she is not working, she is probably maxing out her pinning time for the day on Pinterest or journaling in her diary.

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