2 Minutes With … Mark Duffy, aka Copyranter

A classic industry voice reboots on Substack

Mark Duffy has been a copywriter since 1987, and an ad reviewer/skewerer since 2005. Between 2005 and 2017, he published over 5,600 posts as "Copyranter" on a Blogspot site that became renowned in the industry for its unfiltered take on new campaigns. Over the years, Mark has also written about advertising creativity for Gawker, BuzzFeed, Vice, the Guardian, Digiday and others.

Mark recently resurrected Copyranter on Substack. "Ripping bad ads new assholes is like shooting already dead fish in a barrel with a laser-sighted machine gun," he says. "I also bring to light good, often obscure ads that the MAM [mainstream ad media] ignores or just doesn't discover."

We spent two minutes with Mark to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations, and recent work he's admired.


Mark, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in the farmlands of southern New Jersey. I live in Washington Heights, Manhattan, NYC, NY.

How you first realized you were creative.

I made people laugh a lot in high school.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

Tom McElligott.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

Meeting my best friend, Peter, in college who would years later become an ad copywriter and he convinced me to try to do the same.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

Tool, their drummer Danny Carey, and Neil Peart. I'm a drummer. Also, PJ Harvey because she's a brilliant fucking rocker.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

I recently reread John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, a great novel that always makes me weep. Belfast, the movie. Rectify, TV show.

Someone or something worth following in social media.

Super70sSports. If you're older, like sports, and smart, wiseass commentary.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.

My aforementioned longtime best friend Peter died from it in January 2021. I'm still grieving heavily.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.

Mid-1990s NYC radio commercials for giant waste company BFI. They came to town to take on the mob-controlled trash hauling business. The mob promptly left a dog's head on the Brooklyn stoop of a BFI exec with the message "Welcome to New York." We decided humor was best and hired then not-as-famous J.K. Simmons as the voice of BFI. The campaign helped businesses feel more at ease rebuking the mob, and it helped break up the cartel. Not the most creative thing I've ever done, but very satisfying. It did win a Clio.

A recent project you're proud of.

Well, my Substack. The return of copyranter. It feels good to rail again.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

See McElligott above.

Someone else's work you admired lately.

The recent :15 Steak-umm spots by Tombras.

Your main strength as a creative person.

Thinking visually as opposed to just "wordly."

Your biggest weakness.

I'm relatively slow.

One thing that always makes you happy.

Playing pickup basketball games here in uptown Manhattan. Great bunch of guys aged teens to 83.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Shit. Too many things.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

Probably sports journalism. It's what I went to college for.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards, editor of Muse by Clio, and host of the podcast Tagline. He is the former creative editor of Adweek.

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