The Classy Queen of Copy
Think of style. Just so much style. Like a French lady enjoying a croissant in a cozy café in le Marais. Or classy red Chanel nail polish. Champagne? A very cool New Yorker driving across the Brooklyn Bridge in an old-school convertible, wearing a scarf around her head, Céline Sunglasses and listening to Womack & Womack. An all-black outfit paired with shiny white Stan Smiths? Katja embodies all of this and so much more. She’s also ALWAYS à jour and whatever we need, we’ll always go to her first for advice. She’s savvy, classy & smart.
But let’s hand it over to Katja. Read all about this creative lady, how she started off working at Branders and how she keeps coming up with fun and creative concepts for all kinds of brands. Here she shares her career highlights, what inspires her, how she keeps getting cooler and cooler, what she thinks about women in leading positions and why solo trips to NYC are the bomb.
Tell us a little bit about yourself? Where did you grow up, what have been some milestones along the way and what are you currently doing?
I was born and raised in Düsseldorf and studied German and American Literature and Linguistics in Bonn with no real clue what to do afterwards – I just knew I loved books and language(s). After finishing my master's degree, I came to Zurich for the love of a man, stayed for the love of Zurich and started working as a copywriter for different advertising agencies. In 2007/2008, I did the ADC Ad School and had the greatest class. Meeting so many cool, inspiring and creative people (teachers as well as class-mates, many of whom I’m still friends with) had a huge impact on me, personally and career-wise.
In 2013, I did a Certificate in Advanced Studies in Corporate Communication to broaden my expertise and parallelly started working part-time as an assistant professor for creative writing and thinking which I still do and hugely enjoy. In 2016, I switched from advertising to branding and started at Branders where I still work today as a Senior Copywriter.
Your job as a brand guru is very demanding and you have to be creative all the time and come up with new concepts. Where do you get your ideas? What keeps you inspired?
Luckily, the constant hunt for inspiration is no job requirement to me but something I just instinctively do. I’m very much a visual person and get hugely inspired by looking at stuff, like photography, graphics and design (anyone else missing FFFFOUND btw?!), and I’m a huge digger for modern art and love to visit exhibitions like ART BASEL and Venice Biennale. Just watching people, having unexpected encounters and great conversations, travelling places and discovering new music I find highly inspirational. It’s this particular tickling I get in my guts when my eyes and mind get hooked on something, my ears prick, my curiosity is awakened and I know I just need to find out more about this one thing. I love this feeling and constantly seek it.
What makes a great writer in your opinion?
A great writer masters the art of playing with words to create texts which delight, entertain and enlighten readers, move them and stay with them. And she or he most definitely knows grammar, orthography and punctuation and uses them. I’m a maniac red pen, and it drives me absolutely mental seeing things in print or published which obviously haven’t been proofread. You will constantly find me standing in front of billboards or hovering over ads screaming “Comma!”.
How do you think women can push through and shine in this male-dominated industry?
Being proud for what you are and self-assuredly promoting your strengths are character traits which boys and men get applauded for while girls and women are still being frowned upon – by men and women alike. The seemingly desirable “ladylikeness” comes with modesty, containment and being pleasant, not open self-confidence and being loud and demanding. But this is exactly what you need be if you want to be seen and heard, be involved in this project or get that raise or position you deserve.
This is something I’ve gotten a lot better at but am still working on myself. And I was lucky (or maybe just loud enough) to meet many men along my way who, instead of holding me down, very proactively lifted me up. They saw my potential and encouraged me to take on new challenges I would never have considered myself capable of – whether it was the professor asking me to become his tutor, the boss encouraging me to apply at Ad School or the head of Text Akademie telling me he’d rather hire me as his new assistant professor than take me on as a student.
You are very outspoken and have strong opinions (we love that about you!) Do you feel like this has helped shape your career?
I’d say it has definitely helped getting me noticed and makes it hard to forget me.
We hear you’re quite the chef. If you could cook for one person (or more), dead or alive, who would it be and what would you make?
For the living: I adore the American author Siri Hustvedt and would love to spend an evening with her, hopefully way more talking than eating and therefore just grazing on various simple tapas such as fresh bread, trout mousse, frittata, roasted veggies, cheese and stuff. And as her husband, Paul Auster, is yet another of my favorite authors, he would be most welcome to join for an apple crumble dessert and various digestives from my well-equipped bar.
For the dead: I’d skip dinner and head straight into a crazy night with two of the coolest and most fascinating siblings ever, Erika and Klaus Mann.
Every year you travel to NYC by yourself. Amazing. A lot of people wouldn’t dare travel by themselves, especially to such a big city. Tell us a little bit about that “Me-time”?
I fell for New York the very first time I visited when I was 18 and have felt this yearning in my heart and guts for its energy ever since. I went several times with family or friends before 9/11 and then did a long break. In 2012, having gone through my personal annus horribilis, I finally signed a new job and spontaneously decided to treat myself with the ultimate thing – a trip to New York. I was a bit scared to go by myself, but it was one of the best and most self-empowering decisions ever.
Travelling on your own opens you up to so many new inspiring encounters and unexpected turns, and in New York, those are basically jumping you. After that, I returned almost every year. “These streets will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you” – it has never been put better. Watching drone videos of deserted New York streets was one of the most devastating things during the pandemic, and not knowing if and when I will return to this beloved city is making my heart ache.
We think you are hilarious, and we – among many others – constantly urge you to start writing this weekly column or do that impromptu comedy show. Why don’t you just do it?
As much as I love entertaining people, I fear the haters too much I’m absolutely convinced I would draw by the masses.
Zodiac sign: Aquarius
Currently listening to: D-Nice’s Club Quarantine live-sets on IG
Best (delivery) restaurants in Zurich: Kaisin
How to unwind after a long day in home office: Deep breathing on the yoga mat or heading out for a neighborhood stroll with a friend
Can’t live without: Gallons of coffee, lots of laughter, music (gosh I miss concerts), piles of books, plenty of fur and paws to adore and smooch (hooves are also fine)
The best book or movie of all time is: Philip Roth’s “The Human Stain” changed my conception of “reality” forever and made me realize it isn’t based on an objective truth, but shaped by the story we choose to tell ourselves and others.
Most used emojis: ♥️😽🙈🙌🏻😋
The best drink to order at a bar: Bloody Mary
Mornings or evenings? Lazy afternoons
Finish this sentence: “Women should be more: explicit about what they want. This is actually the best advice I ever got myself: “If you want something, you have to ask for it. No one can or should have to read your mind and guess your thoughts. If you say what you wish for, you increase the chance of receiving it by about a hundred times opposed to remaining silent. Yes, there are a million reasons why someone might say no, most of them having nothing to do with you. But most people don’t even dare asking. You will see amazing things coming your way the moment you put into words what you really wish for and start telling people about it.”