The AdPulp Interview: Alan Wolk

Tangerine Toad hopped out of the anonymous blogger closet. First on Twitter, and now in a feature interview on AgencySpy.
Toad’s real name is Alan Wolk. He is a copywriter/creative director who favors the “tradigitalist” moniker. His agency experience spans nearly two decades with stops at Anderson & Lembke, AtmosphereBBDO, Frankfurt Balkind, Ogilvy, JWT and most recently DraftFCB. Wolk is presently looking for a job where he can “get involved in the strategic end of things, in a major way, right from the start.”
I put a few follow up questions on Wolk’s lily pad after AgencySpy broke the news. Here’s the exchange:
AdPulp: Will you use your blog to help find work?
Alan: It’s my sincere hope that all of theories and strategies I’ve laid out in The Toad Stool will make me more attractive to employers. I think it really defines who I am right now, what I’m about and what I can bring to the party.
As far as actual direct pleas, I do have a link on the blog for anyone who’s interested in talking to me about speaking engagements: appearing at conferences seems to be a logical next step, so I’m using my blog (and now yours) to drum up some interest.
AdPulp: I see you have a book in the works. Have you thought about writing it online?
Alan: At one level, I have been writing it online: Most of the book will be derived from my blog postings. The advantage of an actual book is to get my ideas into the hands of people who might not otherwise find them. Not to mention the fact that if the book was up on a website, I’d be making minor edits to it pretty much hourly.
AdPulp: You mentioned in the AgencySpy piece that what customers want to hear is “never going to be a series of pre-packaged, client-dictated selling points.” Amen to that, but how do any of us overcome this setup, provided the agency we’re working for isn’t one where the work matters most?
Alan: A lot of that change is going to have to come from your clients. As I discussed in The Armies Of “No,” agencies can only do so much with clients who refuse to make marketing a priority. That said, social media does have some built in metrics—people either participate or they don’t and if no one’s participating, it does provide an opening to convince a recalcitrant client to try something different.
You have a law degree from BU. How did you choose to work in advertising? Or did it choose you?
Alan: I was only 20 when I graduated from college and had no idea what I wanted to do: I was a creative writing major and didn’t really have much interest in teaching. My parents were pushing law school and the idea of being able to put off responsibility for three more years sounded pretty good.
While I was in law school, a friend of mine started working as a copywriter, and when I saw what she was doing, I realized I’d missed my calling. So right after graduation I started putting a book together with the help of Dany Lennon, who now runs the Creative Register. A few months later, I was a copywriter. And I can honestly say I’ve never looked back.
I really like what I do for a living, which is more than I can say for most people. So I’ve never regretted the decision.
What inspired the name “Tangerine Toad”?
Alan: To make a long story short, when I started the blog, I envisioned it as a month-long experiment at best, and didn’t really expect anyone to read it, so choosing a clever-yet-sophisticated moniker wasn’t a real priority. It took off and I was sort of stuck with it. Which wasn’t the end of the world- I’m a firm believer that brands can transcend their names (sorry Landor) – I mean Amazon is a pretty silly name for an online bookstore and eBay doesn’t shout “online auction site” but both brands have succeeded in owning the name rather than having the name own them.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.