Mini Me

Hello … my name is Vicky Oliver. I’m a copywriter who was laid off at Big, Gigantic & Humongous. No, not Large, Hefty & Mammoth. BG&H. Could you spare a few moments to look at my portfolio?”

Thus began the worst summer of my life. And it came without warning. My boss had recently told me she wanted me to be “acting creative director” on the Zit Busters account in her absence. She later claimed she didn’t know I was going to lose my job. So did my other boss. So did my other other boss. I would have had to be a genius to have seen the ax coming. But if I were a genius, I probably wouldn’t be in advertising in the first place.

What they don’t tell you when you sign up for unemployment is the number they give you is the only one in the tri-state area. Unless the gods of busy signals make an exception, there is no way you’ll get through. I gave up after six hours. Now I certify for unemployment the old-fashioned way: with a postage stamp!

Every day I make 30 calls. I get, like, two interviews. So I work on my “mini book.” If you don’t know, a mini book is a miniature version of all the ads you’ve written. That’s all! I’m not sure it even makes sense for a writer.

But the trend has swept in from the artsy ad schools. First the junior art directors started putting them together. Then the creative managers decided they preferred them to the big laminated ads. Then the freelance writers started copying the junior art directors!

People now tell me I’m actually hurting my chances by continuing to carry laminated ads. Like I’m some kind of dinosaur. Having a mini book is sooooo fresh, cool and unique.

In an employed copywriter’s life, a week feels like one afternoon. In an unemployed copywriter’s life, a week feels like six months.

With this major ad recession going on, it’s difficult to get anyone to see me, even when they’re best friends with my best friend. One interview I had lasted seven minutes. They did call me back—because they couldn’t remember me or my book.

As a freelancer, I think I’m worth a million bucks. But what should I charge when everyone is lowballing? Writers who can command $1,000 a day are charging $850. Those who get $600 are charging $350. Where does that leave me? Dazed and confused.

I try drinking my way into a job. People I’ve met recently in midtown bars: three art directors; two marketing directors; three copywriters; two account people. Pity they’re all unemployed! But I did get an interview out of it: “This may be the weirdest message you receive all week, but my name is Vicky Oliver, and this bartender gave me your card …” Sometimes chutzpah works!

To steal a page from Bridget Jones’ Diary: Number of days unemployed: 60; number of alcohol units consumed: 3,000; number of caffeine units: 5,000; number of people who are supposed to call me on Monday: 7; number of mini books created: 3; number of freelance gigs: 1 (I still don’t know what to charge!); number of real jobs pending: 2.

While I’m waiting, if you’d like to e-mail me your unemployment horror stories, the chances are excellent that I’ll have time to respond.