We asked junior copywriter Kiirtsen May to write the staff profile on MCG’s associate creative director and head writer Carey Pradinuk. Turns out at first she struggled. Why? Because she works closely with Carey every day! In the end, she (of course) penned a great story. Enjoy.
Carey grew up around advertising. In high school, he spent his summers working in his father’s advertising agency, Pradinuk Advertising. While he enjoyed seeing the work develop from tiny thumbnail sketches to posted billboards, he says, “I was sure that I wouldn’t work in advertising. As sure as you can be about something when you’re 17 anyway.”
Carey completed two years in the education program at the University of Manitoba. One day each week, he worked in an elementary school. And while he believed it was honourable to be a teacher, he soon discovered that it was more difficult than he ever imagined. “I found it a lot easier to have fun with these kids than to be any type of authoritative figure,” says Carey.
During a strike at the university, he left school. His father gave him a full time job at the agency.
“I did a bit of everything. I took a media-buying course, so I helped with that. I helped file. I was a fair student at creative writing in high school, so I started writing ads for him too. That’s when I finally discovered something I could really see myself doing as a career.”
Not long after, Carey sat in the dark auditorium of the Winnipeg Art Gallery to watch the Cannes Lions Film Festival of television commercials . He was inspired, but he compared what he was writing to what he saw on screen and realized that he was “terrible” in comparison.
At the same time, a family friend returned from Humber College’s copywriting program in Ontario. She spoke highly of the course, and within a month, Carey had enrolled in the program and moved to Toronto.
While on a job placement at now defunct agency Harrod & Mirlin/fcb in Toronto, Carey was invited to work as a junior copywriter for Palmer Jarvis DDB back in Winnipeg. There, he met and worked with Ron Sawchuk, who is today MCG’s vice president of creative services, and Maureen Lisi, MCG’s director of client services.
I asked Ron how Carey’s writing and creativity has changed over the years.
“Carey has always worked hard at pushing himself and others in attaining the best creative ideas that will get our clients noticed,” said Ron. “But in these last few years he’s also demonstrated an excellent understanding of the strategic side of advertising and how to work a client’s budget in order to get the message into more heads. He’s an invaluable part of our team at MCG and an asset to the clients he works with.”
Carey’s ability to hone in on key issues was one of the first things I noticed about him, and it’s definitely a skill I envy. After a lifetime in and around the business, he has a unique ability to put himself in the audience’s shoes and see straight to the heart of a campaign.
“Carey uses his innate understanding of the customer, particularly in the retail market, to come up with creative ideas that go directly to the core of the message we want to convey for every advertising campaign,” said Maureen. “I have been very fortunate to work with Carey on many campaigns and I continue to admire his ability to develop great creative ideas that resonate with the consumer on so many levels.”
When I first started at MCG in 2010, Carey quickly taught me two things that my college advertising program did not:
First, you have to be prepared to write a lot of variations of your work. Whether you’re creating a concept, headline or new company name, you need to open a new Word document and get writing. While it’s painstaking and time consuming, it’s necessary to get the crux of the issue and approach the job with insight.
The second thing I learned is that a copywriter’s job goes beyond generating documents of copy that just get handed over to the designers and art directors.
“If you want to be a good copywriter, you have to be able to express ideas visually as well as through copy,” Carey told me. “Because sometimes the best creative solution is one that has nothing to do with words. To be really successful, you have to be able to visualize the final creative and imagine how people will respond to it.”
This is what makes Carey good at his job. That, his competitiveness and tenacity.
Carey plays basketball and volleyball. He’s at the gym three or four times a week. He’s going to run the half marathon this summer for the fourth time, even though he dislikes running.
“I started to do it because I felt obligated to try it; I probably wanted to overcome my own limitations. Now, I think that dislike has grown into a begrudging respect. I still hate the process of running, but there’s no doubt it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my fitness.”
At MCG, Carey passionately pursues ideas that can produce great advertising. He constantly pushes himself to make every ad more compelling, to refine every line of copy and to capture every ounce of emotion in an image. Even when he sees or hears ads he’s worked on in the market, he wishes he could get them back so he could make them better – even the award-winning ones.
Advertising guru David Ogilvy said, “There are very few men of genius in advertising agencies. But we need all we can find. Almost without exception they are disagreeable. Don’t destroy them. They lay golden eggs.”
But there are exceptions. While Carey may disagree with a direction, an approach or a piece of copy, it comes from his determination to improve the work. The truth is, there’s no one more infectiously funny to work with, and truly passionate about advertising.
Without exception, the solutions he strives for enable our agency to produce golden eggs.