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Q&A with Assoc. Creative Dir. Ken Martino: Know Your Audience, Speak Their Language

Ken Martino joined Symmetri on October 10 as the new Associate Creative Director for Copy. He has B2B experience across all types of media – from brand advertising to web, video, radio and more. When I met him just a few days ago, my first impression was that he probably has some interesting ideas to discuss and stories to tell. So let’s see.

Ken, you’re the newest addition to the Symmetri team, having started just a couple of weeks ago. So let’s start with some cocktail party conversation. How did you get into advertising, and in particular the copywriting side of the business?

I’m starting to ask myself the same question. Actually, I knew I wanted to be in advertising since my junior year of high school. I had an English teacher that was an ex-ad guy. He used to write for Smucker’s. He would tell us anecdotes and I would always probe him with more questions after class. Then, the movie Boomerang came out with Eddie Murphy. In the movie, he was a smooth-talking ad executive. Glitz, glam, commercials, ideas, creativity…I was sold. I sucked at math, but I could write a paper on Shakespeare’s Macbeth no problem. So the writing side of creative just came natural. I had a vivid imagination as a kid and I just went with it. I can’t see myself doing anything else.

You’ve worked in a wide range of media for a wide range of businesses – from healthcare, to retail, to…well, I’ll let you fill in the rest. Tell us about your professional journey and how it led you to Symmetri.

My path has been an interesting one, no doubt. I’ve pretty much done it all from an industry standpoint. Recruitment advertising, consumer advertising, retail, e-commerce, B2B. I’m kind of a jack of all trades, master of none. And I like it that way. It keeps you well-rounded as a creative and also keeps you relevant in this business. Symmetri really found me though. Jim Z hit me up from LinkedIn and asked if I was looking for a new gig. I’ve done a little B2B, but I felt this was another challenge for me to attack. I also like being able to make an impact, both on the client side and the agency side. So, I felt I could bring some good things to Symmetri.

With the internet and social networking, more people are writing and reading more words than at any time in history – for better or worse. What does it take to stand out from all the noise?

Less words. Let me rephrase that. Less BS and more targeted words. Know your audience and speak to them. You’re right, more people are writing, which is why this is important. There is so much content out there. And more people are reading. But they’re reading less content at once overall. If your friend has a Facebook post that wraps more than two lines, you’re skipping right over it – unless they grab you in the first 5–7 words. People are choosing what longer content they want to read. You look at apps like Flipboard, Pulse, etc…they serve curated snippets of information and you are choosing what you want to read and when to read it. This is why analytics and data are so key…know your audience, then speak to them in their language.

As a writer myself, I often feel kind of mentally bruised and confused at the end of a hard week at the keyboard. How about you? What do you do to unwind?

I always tell my copywriters that writing or coming up with an idea is like giving birth. Not that I even can know what that feels like, sorry ladies. But yes, the actual giving birth part. Lotta pain. It could last 6 hours. It could last 48 hours. But once you have that final push and breakthrough, it’s the most satisfying moment. After that happens, I like to unwind by shutting off my brain with some type of activity that requires me to think of something else. So golf, softball, video games, DJ’ing.