Jan’s CV

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Jan O’Connell

As a child, I was always in trouble for reading too much. Hiding under the covers with a torch, I ignored my grandmother’s dire warnings that I’d ruin my eyes as I worked my way through the Famous Five and the Faraway Tree, progressing to Biggles and Mary Grant Bruce’s Billabong series.

Reading led to writing. My first published piece appeared in Teenager’s Weekly, a supplement to the Australian Women’s Weekly, in 1963 while I was still at school. That year, tossing up between journalism and copywriting and not fancying being assigned to the social pages, I decided that the world of advertising was less likely to discriminate against women.

After two years of secretarial and clerical work in ad agencies, I had my first opportunity to do some writing. In the radio department at Clemenger Melbourne I edited the copy for radio commercials promoting the exceedingly violent sport of Roller Derby. The major requirement was that every script ended with “Be there!” I wrote jingles for Luna Park, Butter Menthols and Irish Moss cough drops and endless commercials for Borthwicks Smallgoods.

In 1969, I became a full-time copywriter at Clemenger. I started with Kmart catalogues. At the same time, I started my Arts Degree at Melbourne University, majoring in English and History. After seven years of writing press, magazine, radio and television ads for icecream, lollies, paint, beer, gas cooking, cruises, dry cleaning, funeral directors and a multitude of other products and services,  and completing my degree, I took time out to travel.  Over three months in Perugia, Italy, I acquired a reasonable grasp of the language and an enduring love of the country and its food.

Returning to Australia I worked at Lintas Melbourne before returning to Clemenger as a senior writer.  I was subsequently appointed as a creative director, responsible for the development of campaigns on a group of national accounts.  During this time, I produced television and print campaigns for well-known brands including Allens Anticol (‘Puts out the fire in your throat’), National Mutual, Campbells Soups, Four‘n’Twenty Pies, Wedgwood Pastries, Nabisco, Gillette and Bowater Scott.  A number of these campaigns were recognised with industry awards.

Among my achievements was helping to make yogurt an everyday part of the Australian diet.  Prior to the launch of Yoplait, yogurt was a ‘fringe food’ in this country.The launch campaign put fruit yogurt on the average family’s shopping list for the first time and was acclaimed as ‘Product Launch of the Year’ by Retail World in 1982. The French positioning and the line “It’s French for yogurt” set the foundation for a campaign that lasted for nearly two decades.

Meanwhile, I had become the mother of two girls, giving me a completely new perspective on life.  I took five months off and the family set out on a round-Australia road trip.  We covered 32,000 kilometers and saw most of the edges and quite a lot of the middle of Australia, giving me a new appreciation for our “wide, brown land”.

Back in Melbourne, I became Deputy Creative Director at the retail-dominated ad agency, Mattingly, with responsibility for accounts including The Sun News Pictorial, V-Line and Beaurepaires for Tyres.  A year later, I was appointed as Creative Director on the agency’s biggest account, Myer/Grace Brothers.  This account involved television campaigns, print advertising and a large-scale catalogue operation.

In 1989, I began a third stint with Clemenger as a Creative Director. A key achievement  was our successful submission for the Australian Dairy Corporation account.  One of the outcomes of this was the first campaign for dairy products to concentrate on the importance of calcium in the prevention of osteoporosis.

Since that time, my writing career has included: a time as Joint Creative Director at Clemenger Harvie; a period as a freelance creative consultant when my new(ish) partner, Fred Harden, joined Murdoch Magazines in Sydney; a few articles published in Cleo magazine; and a move to Canberra when I accepted the position of Creative Director at Grey Worldwide.

At Grey, as well as campaigns for local retailers, property developers and ACT Government departments, I had the opportunity to work on many national government campaigns.  And my work even won me a medal,  awarded for my  ‘Contribution to the Centenary of Federation”. Our Centenary of Federation campaign involved television advertising, publications, magazine and press advertisements, poster advertising, sponsorship kits, displays and more.  It began with the commercial that taught Australians the name of their first Prime Minister, and ended with a 16-page souvenir booklet that was inserted in every metropolitan newspaper in Australia.

In 2005 I collaborated with Fred on the launch of a new magazine, Regional Food Australia, writing columns, articles and reviews and casting an editorial eye over the publication. Sadly, the magazine failed to take the nation by storm, so I continued in my day job writing advertising, contributing the occasional piece to the Regional Food website and writing a book – a food memoir titled “Me and My Big Mouth”. (You can buy it online here.)

Then I decided 48 years in advertising agencies was enough.  So it’s on to other projects. As well as my own writing on the web and elsewhere, I’m now available for commercial work including web, brochures, reports, books, manuals – anything that requires making the complex readable and interesting. Take a look at some of the work on this site and if I can help you give me a call.