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Meet the former Shifter writing social and creative copy for brands

Richie Babalola on how writing poetry from a young age led to a career as a copywriter and creative at some of the world’s best-known agencies

Spark Progress by Wieden + Kennedy for Converse

D&AD Meets is a regular series where we elevate the work of need-to-know creatives who have been through D&AD programmes Shift and New Blood. Each interview features new talent deserving of a spotlight, the ones to watch, and the ones to work with. Here, we speak to Richie Babalola who graduated from Shift in 2019, and has since worked at Wieden + Kennedy, That Lot and AKQA.

He is a writer by craft. Even before he started working in advertising, he was writing poetry, short stories, and think-pieces, later transitioning into advertising and copywriting. Babalola initially worked at Livity back when he was a teenager after leaving school, and later went through the D&AD Shift programme in 2018-19, before interning at agency Wieden + Kennedy – his entry point into the creative industries.

Here, he tells us about how being a voracious reader and networking helped him land a job at AKQA.

What does your work as a creative at AKQA involve?

I’m currently a Creative Copywriter at AKQA, where I come up with editorial copy or conceptual copy for brands like Bacardi and Jio. It’s really enjoyable having the opportunity to write and come up with creative ideas to solve business and social problems. On a day to day basis I could be writing copy for Barcardi’s website, writing email and newsletter templates, and writing articles. I could also be coming up with conceptual ideas, so concepts for an app for example. I could also just be coming up with creative ideas. My first account was with Nespresso and for that we basically had to come up with a Tik Tok-first social media campaign that used influencers to showcase Nespresso recipes and it was really interesting, and coming up with scripts for that as well.

What was your route into the industry?

The turning point for me was when I did my internship at Wieden + Kennedy while also doing night school at D&AD Shift. I would go over there and take part in workshops to vote on focus groups, take part in immersive and insightful lessons and I also got to do different campaigns.

At the same time I did a whole bunch of hustling. I fortunately connected with Paul Ostryzniuk  and Johnny Budden from AKQA who are the creative directors, and Samantha Small, who is now my line manager at AKQA. I managed to make it work and managed to get an interview with them and I’m blessed to be where I am now.

Short stories by Richie Babalola

How did your passion for the craft of storytelling blossom?

I was a very active reader from a young age. I live right next to Brixton library so I was reading a lot of books. I used to take like four or five books from the library and read. I found that I naturally started writing poetry and short stories and looking at market demographic pieces, articles, and scripts. I enjoyed telling stories in every medium and felt that copyrighting as a career, kind of made sense.

You were part of D&AD’s Shift Program, can you tell us a bit about your experience?

Shift was really amazing, it was fantastic. I met some great people who I still speak to today. You learn a whole lot about the industry, from design to working with a team, and just the whole process of advertising. I would definitely say for anyone that wants to get into the industry and doesn't know how to or can't go through orthodox schools I would definitely give D&AD Shift a try. There’s many people who've gone through the programme, and are now at top agencies.

Can you tell us three creatives who are doing interesting work? This is your chance to shout our creatives on the rise.

The three creatives are Tom Bender and Tom Corcoran (creative team from W+K) Abdoue and Akwasi (creative team from TBWA\Media Arts Lab) and my copywriting sensei Samantha Small from my company AKQA.

What advice do you have for someone trying to break into the creative industry?

The most important thing is networking but beyond networking, getting to know people, man, is the most important thing apart from talent. It’s personality, how you come across, how passionate you seem, just being a really nice person really. People will engage with that, people will want to answer emails, people will want to come to you for conversation.

Your social conduct and endurance, being prepared for nos. Because sometimes that will happen, and being able to enjoy that and to bounce back and believing in your talent, ultimately. It’s not the be-all and end-all if one agency does not subscribe to what you have to offer. Just believe in your talent, believe you're definitely gonna make it and make something happen.

Get in touch with Richie and check out his work here

Meet more rising creative talent including photographers, motion designers, illustrators and visual artists.

D&AD Shift with Google in London is a free, industry-led night school programme for new creatives. If you are over 18 and don't have a degree-level qualification, Shift is for you.

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