“What do I think of what, exactly?” I was lost. My client at TBWA, the largest agency in the Netherlands, looked at me with great expectation. I felt like I should know the answer. So did he. But this was a pure strategy question. So how could I know? I was in charge of the creative. Still, he was right to ask, and right to expect an answer. After all, I was in charge of his campaign – a very large and visible campaign to boot. I was also out of my depth.

It’s a strange phenomenon in creative services: as you climb the ranks as a creative, you become a sparring partner for clients. However, even the most famous agencies are notoriously bad at educating their talent. So, I took this moment to heart. I went back to night school to study advanced marketing communications for a year. After that, content strategy, branding and positioning, content creation and storytelling, customer journeys, go to market strategy, inbound online marketing and a 100-part pure strategy course. I got educated, I educated myself. That part has always come naturally to me. I do by learning. More importantly, I was able to help more and more clients with their strategy questions.

Then at one point, I was asked to do pure strategy work, where being a copywriter was secondary. Very useful – strategy is a lot more appealing when well-written – but not the main reason for hiring me. There was another reason why this works out well: I have enough experience under my belt as a creative to know what strategy will yield interesting, effective executions. To steer clear from the expected, the crowded middle. Or to avoid pandering to the client. Which happens a bit more than you’d like to know.

Now I help companies find their value propositions, give their brands an identity, voice their stories. To show the world what they have to offer, and to eliminate any barriers that get in the way. Strategy, it turns out, is great fun as long as you know what you’re doing.