Episode 27: Julie Chen, Copywriter at Base Beauty Creative Agency

Meet the Base Beauty Team! This special mini series highlights members of our Base Beauty team. Listen as they discuss their career paths, and how they handle working remotely.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHello everyone. I'd like to introduce you to Julie Chen, a copywriter on our team. Hi Julie.
Julie ChenHi. How's it going?
Jodi KatzIt's good. I'm so happy that you're here because I'm so excited for our listeners to learn about you and what you do. So, why don't you walk us through a little bit about your history and how you became a beauty writer.
Julie ChenI actually started out in fashion. It was just, really, like no choice for a career for me. I was very single minded, since I was a little kid, about working in fashion. It's not like I really didn't think of other things. Everything always ... Growing up, you know, it's time to go to college, pick a major, things like that. Everything else just really paled the comparison to work in fashion.
I went to Fashion Institute of Technology right here in New York. Started interning at magazines during, probably during my junior and senior years there. After I graduated, I got my dream job and cleared working in a magazine, and kind of rode that wave until things ... as you know media's really changed. I kind of hit the last few years with the golden age of magazines. Everything really sort of [inaudible 00:01:45] my career. Internet took over. Everything went digital, and that's really when I picked up writing. It was really just a way to stay nimble and stay relevant and stay working in a field I was interested in. I found that I really loved it. That's kind of what brings me here.
Writing also opened me up to other opportunities outside of fashion. I think the two are really interrelated, obviously as you know. It's really hard to have one without the other. Once I started writing and doing work like that, I was really able to take on more of the beauty aspect. I just really love it because there is, I wouldn't say more inclusive, but the beauty industry is just so vast. You could really find your niche, or you could work very broadly. There really is a product for everything. There's makeup for every sort of ... whatever stage you are in life. That's really been exciting for me, especially working with Base Beauty. It's really exciting to be in an agency setting where you get a lot of access to all these different brands and really get to learn what they have to offer and what they're about. How people are responding to these products, it's really exciting. That's kind of where I found myself here with you guys.
Jodi KatzWhat magazines were you working at?
Julie ChenI actually worked at Glamour. I think you worked there too.
Jodi KatzYeah, I worked there for like, a minute.
Julie ChenYeah, so we didn't have overlap. That was my first big girl job. I worked at Glamour magazine. After that, I did a few [inaudible 00:03:50] of freelance, and then I went back and worked at Lucky magazine. My last magazine job was at Celebrity Weekly, Life and Style Weekly, covering celebrities and pop culture, and that was really fun. Since then, that was probably 2010, I asked as soon after I really [inaudible 00:04:15] into working almost exclusively in the digital space and just writing.
Jodi KatzSo, when you're working in magazines, were you an assistant? What were you doing? What was a day like for you?
Julie ChenI kind of actually ... Every job from intern all the way up to the market editor. A typical day, it depends what stage of that part of my career was going on. At the magazines, it's incredible because I'm not getting you like ... I never woke up and thought, "Ugh, I have to go to work today." I just really loved the environment. I just loved the work so much. I was always looking forward to going to work, which not everyone can say that. I feel really lucky about that. A typical day was a lot of calling in clothes, a lot of visiting showrooms. There's always a cycle of planning for shoots, planning for new stories, see what's new, plan more, see what's new. It was a ton of fun.
Jodi KatzSo, when you last editorial and move into being a writer and creating content for brands, is it because you saw the writing on the wall in publishing or was it just a happy accident?
Julie ChenIt was a little bit of a happy accident. It was really just ... yeah it was kind of a happy accident actually. My friend introduced me to another friend who had her own beauty brand, and I started working with her on anything she needed, really, what was going on with her. It was an indie brand at that point. She's grown a lot. I was like, "Wow." Working on the brand side was exciting, because it's very focused. It allowed me to get deeper into the product and really ... There's a team building aspect to it that I really liked a lot. Not to say there wasn't that on the editorial side, but when you're working in the editorial, your end objective is different. You're really covering a huge market. You're really trying to get to tell people this is what's out there, this is what's great. On the brand side, it was really fun to be able to focus my energy on growing something and really seeing something go from A to B to C to D. Yeah, that's kind of how it happened.
Jodi KatzIt's interesting that you mention what it's like to work on a brand. Before I started the agency, I was at a brand. I was a copywriter at the brand, then became an art director at the brand, then became a creative director with the brand. There is something really amazing about being in the thick of it, and being in the cloud of that brand, and laser focus on that brand.
Julie ChenYes.
Jodi KatzI'd say that's the biggest challenge I have now, because we all want to get our hands so dirty in a client's brand. Sometimes they don't understand how to let us in, like let us really in.
Julie ChenYeah.
Jodi KatzLet us work on everything the customer sees, such as if you were your creative department at the company, sitting in your office.
Julie ChenMm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.
Jodi KatzIt's what I miss the most, because it's not as much fun to do it at a distance, right? It's fun to create the big campaign, develop the big campaign. It's also great to work on their wholesale accounts and their relationship with Ulta and Sephora, and all these things, like every single [inaudible 00:08:19] into brand building. I'm hoping that over time clients will learn that they can let us in more and let us really own everything that the customer sees and touches, in every way, shape and form, because I miss it. I miss getting really dirty in it.
Julie ChenYeah, and I think it works really well that way to be more ... Everything is so integrated now.
Jodi KatzMm-hmm (affirmative).
Julie ChenYour customer pacing content that you have on your site. It will relate to wholesale in a way. Your social media presence ... It is going to relate to your e-commerce sales in a way. It's a very intertwined ecosystem. When you're doing one piece of it from the outside, being an agency, it can be kind of tough sometimes when you're just like, "No, I see this. I see something that can be improved here." Or "This would relate really well." It's really great that we work with people that are very receptive to our ideas. I do find that it's kind of the difference when you're not in house. In house, there is kind of more this holistic ... what am I trying to say here? You're just deeply ingrained in the brand. Every piece is their culture and their DNA, you know?
Jodi KatzYeah. I have my heart set on finding a client brand that has their own stores, like company owned stores so that we can really not only develop who is the brand and why do I love them as a customer and why do I care about them as a customer, but have that all come to life in store, because I know retail really suffers now.
Julie ChenMm-hmm (affirmative).
Jodi KatzYou know, brick and mortar suffering. I do think that, as a team, we can bring a lot of magic to the experience of being in store and animating the experience, really giving customers a reason to come back and shop. So, that's sort of what I'm ... I guess I'm putting the intention out there, right? That we're going to find that sign that's really looking to innovate, not just the digital business, but they really want to innovate the brick and mortar business as well.
Julie ChenMm-hmm (affirmative).
Jodi KatzSo now that I put that intention out there, I guess stay tuned.
Julie ChenI don't ... what's manifested? Stay tuned.
Jodi KatzLet's talk a little bit about what it means to be a copywriter. We might have some listeners who are early in their career and never heard that word before. Talk a little bit about what that means.
Julie ChenSo as a copywriter, I speak with different brands and different places you can work. It can mean ... It's a little more fluid than it used to it. I'd say maybe 10, 15 years ago, a copywriter just worked on words. It's basically anything that you can spell out, anything that's written that has to do with the brand, it falls into the copy department. Nowadays, I find that the role of copywriter has really become more omni channel and much more ... It's a little bit more about content creation as well too. It's really not just about what are we going to say in this ad. It's become more about ideas and concepting things from ... I don't know, like a Snapchat story, like how we're going to promote this new product launch on social media. It's come off the page a little bit, you know, in digital world. It's definitely come off the page. There used to be really just one or two ways to consume media and to consume brands advertising and a brand product. It's like product, advertising, stuff that you see in stores. Now, like I said, it's so omni channel. You could really learn about a brand and experience a brand in totally different ways than it was 10 years ago, even five years ago.
Jodi KatzYeah, even two years ago.
Julie ChenEven two years ago. It's a fast change.
Jodi KatzIt's interesting that you mention how the job of copywriter is now more about ideas in addition to words. That, for me at Base Beauty, is really important. When I started my career and I worked at a giant advertising agency, there were copywriter, art director teams, right? At the good agencies, the writers weren't just writing. They were coming in with ideas. When I finally got to be a copywriter, sometimes my art director partner had the better idea for a design than I did. Maybe I had a better idea for the concept, or how the visuals would play out. It's really important to me that that approach is the way that we work here at Base Beauty, because I really believe anybody can have a good idea. There's no hierarchy to who gets to have a good idea here. I know that that's different than other agencies who are like, junior people or non-creative, can't have good ideas. I don't believe that, and we've seen it on our own team. Our most junior person, [Alani 00:13:53], sometimes her ideas are the only ones that are really great when we do brainstorm.
Julie ChenYeah.
Jodi KatzShe's one year in the business.
Julie ChenYeah.
Jodi KatzI'm glad to hear that you feel that because it's important to me that ideas are ideas. We have just clever, creative people, putting them together. There's not a crazy hierarchy around, how that happens.
Julie ChenAnd that's what I really love about working with you and working with Base Beauty, is that this openness ... Ideas can come from anywhere. Like you said about Aleni, I remember one time she had just the most genius Snapchat story idea. It spoke to ... the client was really looking for something that spoke to like, basically she was the customer. We needed someone very young. They're trying to sell something to someone, early 20's. It's so great to have ... Why shut out an idea when, you know, there's your target demographic sitting in front of you right there? And she did come up with the best idea. I love that. I think that the kind of old way of working is like, "Be quiet at the table because you're the junior person." Imagine missing out on her amazing Snapchat story. That would've been too bad. I find-
Jodi KatzI can say-
Julie ChenOh, sorry.
Jodi KatzJulie, we're not ageist though. We do have a member of our team who's probably late 50's, and she has really good ideas too.
Julie ChenAnd I love that.
Jodi KatzAnybody, no matter your age, has great ideas.
Julie ChenMm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely.
Jodi KatzLet's talk a little bit about what you think you would be doing if you weren't doing this, right? For whatever reason, what else is in your heart?
Julie ChenYou know what? Before I went off to FIT, I always really kind of struggled with wanting to be a fashion editor and wanting to be a fashion designer. My past just led me to working in media. I still inside, oh you know, I kind of wish I was a designer, not necessarily fashion anymore. I think my scope of interests have gotten much, much wider as life has gone on. Definitely design, you know? I would be really happy as the ... probably any sort of designer. Industrial designer, fashion designer, interior designer, textile designer. It's really where the other part of my brain spends a lot of time, thinking about how things look, how things function. Yeah, that's probably what I'd be doing for sure.
Jodi KatzThat's cool. Well, if a client calls and says they need a textile design, we'll call you and you'll figure it out.
Julie ChenDefinitely.
Jodi KatzYou can own that project.
Julie ChenActually, that would be really fun. I do make a mean mood board.
Jodi KatzOh, okay, good to know. Good to know, that's cool. So Julie, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your wisdom and experience with our listeners.
Julie ChenYes, thanks for having me.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to Where Brains Meet Beauty with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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