Ricky Johanet ’12

Copywriter. Marketer. Comedian.

Ricky Johanet turned an ambitious collection of in-school internships into real industry success.

Before even graduating Columbia College Chicago, advertising major Ricky Johanet ’12 worked as a copywriter on several major campaigns, including Kraft, OfficeMax, Hillshire Farms, and Michelob Ultra. His talent and drive have since led to several industry jobs with ad agencies like Digitas, Energy BBDO, and Leo Burnett. Johanet now works as a senior copywriter at Leo Burnett and has contributed to ad campaigns for brands such as Quaker Oats, Kids Foot Locker, and Snickers. 

Can you tell me about your school internships?

I did three internships while I was at Columbia—sophomore, junior, and senior year. The one I did senior year eventually led to a job while I was in school. Internships are great, especially with Columbia’s location. You’re kind of at the center of all the agencies downtown. It was easy for me to take classes in the morning and then walk over to work in the afternoon.

Can you talk about your responsibilities as a senior copywriter at Leo Burnett? 

Senior copywriter can be a bit of a misleading title. I certainly do a lot of writing, but the job is more about coming up with ideas that solve our clients’ business problems. That could be anything from writing and producing a commercial about a new product launch to coming up with crazy stunts or events that will get our brands a lot of attention. Every project I work on is totally different, but that’s what makes my job so interesting.  

What do you like about copywriting?

I like helping define a brand's point of view and the voice of a campaign. It’s a unique job, thinking of a brand almost like a person. What’s their point of view on the world like? What would they sound like?

And you do comedy writing on the side?

Most of the ad agencies have programs that will fund any education you want to do. Comedy writing is something I’ve always been interested in, and we're here in Chicago—Second City has such a great program. During my career, I was able to take these classes after work. It really helped broaden my experience and my horizons a little bit. Comedy writing definitely is something where you can take a lot of the principles and apply them to the ads that you're writing.

How did Columbia help prepare you for your career?

You need to know the basic concepts of marketing, and they did a great job breaking down all the aspects of business—from media to advertising to public relations to marketing. They really give you a well-rounded look at the industry. I got to do some art direction, I got to do copywriting, I got to take classes like Ad Agency Practicum that mirrored a real-life agency, where we got to present real work for real clients. That directly led to my first job at Digitas. Everything that I showed in my portfolio was stuff I had done at Columbia.