Rex Roy was born into auto writing. At age 14 he was a product information specialist in the world’s 27th largest ad agency. In high school he sold “spy” photos to the buff books and could re-build cars. That his father had founded and built Ross Roy Advertising gained him entrée but memorizing car facts as easily as “other kids memorized baseball stats” earned him the respect of copywriters who relied on him for copy points and art directors who came to him to verify their product depictions were correct.
He was raised during Motor City high times when auto talk was the only talk on the city’s golf-courses, in its bars, over its dinner tables and at its backyard barbeques and cocktail parties – as well as its board rooms and assembly lines. The “auto biz” was the secular religion. For Roy, it was systemic and he felt a career in auto advertising was his birthright.
Yet, as have thousands of Detroit families who fully expected their children would follow them into the shops, studios, cubicles or executives suites of the Big Three or those of its vendors and suppliers, he found that things change. Drastically. For him, the first of two reality jolts came much earlier than the seismic one hitting Motown now. The death of his father and sale of the agency shortly before he graduated the U. of M. totally altered his expectations. The new owners “no family” policy barred him from Ross Roy which itself, within a decade was no longer a proud Detroit-owned agency, having been consumed and regurgitated by a communications conglomerate.
But back then, it was still “three martini lunch time” in Detroit and he quickly found demand for his automotive know-how, working for a number of firms before starting his own to provide catalogs, sales training materials and any type of copy utilizing his industry know-how and wordsmith abilities. That lasted until one of his clients dangled money and status for him to work exclusively for them as a Sr. VP, Group Creative Director, forming a new division and hiring folks to work for him. Then things changed again. New management he chose not to get along with arrived a few years later. He had divided his old company’s business among its employees when he left so he had to reinvent himself.
This time, Detroit’s automotive predominance was on the slide and it was more like sack lunches at the desk. He was faced with the same challenge that he believes confronts Detroit’s work force now, the need to rely on entrepreneurial energies and imagination to survive and achieve. He does not think it will be easy on the massive scale required. Switching to full time freelance auto journalism was not easy for him. Fortunately, he had run into journalists like veteran Don Sherman who mentored his transition and auto editors who liked his writing and auto smarts. Among those he credits for helping him get started are Rich Homan, a former editor at Road & Track and Reilly Brennan, now at AOL Autos.
He lives in a smaller home and drives an older car now and hustles each day to sell and write stories to pay the mortgage. At least 10 outlets use his work regularly. Since the first of the year he has placed 100 pieces and while he enjoys the independence and relying on his wit, he still starts each day scratching for story ideas and deciding to whom and where to best pitch them