Netdiver magazine

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digital culture

Web stars speak

/ Interview with Joe Szabo

Joe Szabo is Writer for Modem Media

Launched my career in Budapest in 1993. Wrote my first TV script. 

Won my first award. 

Spent most of my EURO days at an agency called Ammirati Puris Lintas, roughly 3 years. 

Moved to Vancouver, British Columbia and spend my time running a small design firm on Vancouver Island. 

Eventually moved to the island and turned the design shop into an ad agency. It was sold to Palmer Jarvis. 

There's only so much sea-kayaking a man can take so I moved to Toronto and began writing for a small shop called the BrainStorm Group, where I created the Lemons were hurt real bad campaign for mike's hard lemonade. 

After poking in and out of the interactive world I jumped online in August 2000. 

That's when I joined Modem Media as a writer, and have been here ever since.

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/ How were you first introduced to the internet?

I heard about the Internet while living in Eastern Europe in the early 90's. When I returned to Canada there was a steering wheel icon on my desktop, the icon for Netscape Navigator. I clicked on it and that was it.

/ Do you remember your first impression of the internet?

I knew it would change the way we communicate.

/ You are a copy writer, when did your love of words start?

I am a Canadian-Hungarian. Hungarian is the third hardest language to learn in the world. I went to Hungarian grammar school when I was 5 and the differences between the two languages continues to fascinate me.

My mission is to master one of them.

/ Describe your path to becoming a professional writer.

The path is never the same. One day it's pure joy and the next is littered with broken bits of glass, frustration and self-doubt. Oh yeah, and it never ends.

/ What do you look for when hiring?

Confidence, eagerness and fresh thinking.

/ What makes for a good project?

A good client; a good producer who gets what you need; a good creative director who lets you go out to left field and knows how to bring you back.

/ What was your initial profession?

Writing was the only real job I ever had. I wouldn't call "Leisure & Recreation Consultant" a profession, at least not a paying one.

/ How did you first get involved in content publishing?

I wrote advertisements for seven years. Toward the end of my offline career I started writing web sites for fun. Then I had to write one for a client, mike's hard lemonade. Mike's a pretty wacky guy. And so was my first web site.

/ How do you sharpen your talent?

READ. PRACTICE. LISTEN.

/ What is your favorite writing material. Why?

Anything that I believe in. If a client can convince me that her salad dressing is better than the competition's, the easier it is for me to convince everyone else.

/ What makes a good team?

When everyone is on the same high with same intentions to fulfill the same objectives.

/ What makes a good storyboard?

A simple one.

/ Describe what is *inspiration*.

Anything that stops me from looking at one thing the same way.

/ Describe what is a top-notch client.

A top-notch client has to believe in what she's doing because it makes a writer's job a lot harder when they don't. 

She has to be honest and unafraid.

/ How do you protect clients from their own ignorance?

Whenever client's make idiotic requests it's because they're unhappy with what they have. They're not sure what it is and some clients are better at articulating themselves than others. 

I always try to find out what it is they don't like and why. If we're off strategy, it's our fault. If the client is being subjective, I resort to the objectives that were set forth. 

/ How do you promote your talent and land gigs?

Work harder than the next guy. The gigs will come to you.

/ Do you get involved in online marketing?

My clients have their own interactive marketing departments and I'm very lucky to be exposed to the things they do. It's incredible. 

When we feel their strategies won't work in the online world we try to figure out how it will.   

/ Is branding an important issue online?

Branding is fundamental to the survival of any brand, on or offline. 

/ What was the catalytic thought that gave birth to your career?

I wanted to be a radio DJ.

/ Describe what the internet means to you?

No boundaries.

/ Describe 3 qualities necessary to succeed online.

Vision. Passion. Knowledge.

/ What is the single achievement that makes you most proud?

Making the transition from the offline ad world to the online world.

/ If there were no budget limitations - which single dream project would you launch?

The first chartered flight service to Mars.

/ Give a one line counsel to newbies.

READ whatever you can get your hands on. Learn it, and learn it better than the next guy because he is most likely after what you're after. 

/ What is your opinion of the present situation in the dotcom industry?

People/companies who shouldn't be on Internet are finding why they shouldn't be there. They need to rethink their objectives and set realistic goals. 

Clearly, it's the time of winners and losers.

/ In your view, explain what is convergence?

Convergence to me is when I use the Internet to do a task and all my needs are met at every channel.

/ Is the www an international network?

It will be.

/ Tell us what the future (net) looks like.

The net will be a much better place. We'll go to it on a daily basis like we go to work or school to get something done, something that would have taken a lot more time and effort before everyone used the net.