Portrait of the Copywriter as a Young Woman (Or: An Ode to Big Bites)

“Big Bites: They take a big bite out of your appetite.”

That’s a line from what might be called my earliest foray into copywriting, as a 16 year-old high school student. I wasn’t interested in copywriting—career-wise, I wanted to be the next Bette Davis: a serious actress. But I was also inspired by 1980s comedy, which in the Pre-Internet Era meant turning to TV for doses of David Letterman and Saturday Night Live. So when my 11th grade public speaking teacher gave the class an out-of-the-box assignment (present anything you want in any format you want, in 2 minutes or less), I dove into the opportunity to break out of presentation templates.

I did what any self-respecting teen in the ’80s could do: I drew from bubble-gum culture and my own penchant for Weird Al-style spoofing to create a “commercial” for a phony cereal brand, Big Bites. Like all budding copywriters, I knew how to spot a good concept when I saw one: Big Bites was what a friend’s mother called Honeycomb cereal, in a thick Ukranian accent. It sounded hilarious when she said it, so I figured it could be comedy gold for my “commercial.”

I enlisted Kira, my best friend and spoofster-in-crime, for camera and voice over support. It probably took us 2 or 3 hours to do a full take without laughing or messing up the lines. Which is what we needed to do, because digital cameras and computer-based editing tools didn’t of course exist. We filmed the “ad” on VHS, in her family’s kitchen. At one point, we persuaded Kira’s brother to do the voice over, because she couldn’t get through the lines without fumbling them or cracking up—and we were running out of cereal, our most vital prop.

Kira managed to hang onto the video over the years, joking every now and then that she would transfer the VHS to digital some day. She delivered on that last year, for my birthday. I still think it’s funny. The internet is made for these kinds of things, so up on the interwebs it goes!

As you’ll see in the video below, we finally get it right (ie not busting out into laughing) at about the 6-min mark. Here’s the script:

Voice over: Today, we’ve secretly replaced the cereal of one of America’s most stubborn breakfast eaters with a brand of our own. Let’s see if she notices.

Me: Wait a minute. This isn’t my usual breakfast. What is this?

Voice over: It’s Big Bites, Kim.

Me: Big Bites?

Voice over: It’s fortified with 8 non-essential vitamins and minerals as well as having twice the sugar as other leading brands.

Me: Mmm. These are so good. I just can’t get enough. What are they called again?

Voice over: Big Bites. They take a big bite out of your appetite!

Yes, I got an A on this assignment. Naturally :).

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