A Day in the Life of an Advertising Copywriter

Guest post by Trish Little

Most people have no clue who writes both the witty and the rotten advertising they’re exposed to on a daily basis. Many people are under the impression that the owner of the product comes up with these sometime entertaining little ditties. Actually, the person responsible is the advertising copywriter, often working for an outside ad agency. Now this isn’t to say that what’s communicated in your average TV commercial or print ad is entirely the purview of the copywriter alone. There are many cooks in the kitchen but the guiding voice behind most advertising messaging belongs to none other than the copywriter.


Morning Staff Meetings

The copywriter – along with a host of other advertising professionals including art directors (the copywriter’s counterpart on the visual side), account executives, media executives, print product managers, art buyers, and, of course, the top dogs at the agency–start their day with a morning status meeting. How’s the TV commercial for the agency’s biggest new client coming along? When will it be done? Will it come in on budget? How about the corresponding print ads? The brochures? The direct mail? Will it be done on time?! It’s a tough way to start the day but with the aid of grande-sized coffee and the promise of a paycheck that week, most people make it through.

Meetings, Meetings & You Guessed it: More Meetings

The thrust of the day moves on to meetings of all kinds. Meetings between account executives briefing the creative people (the copywriter and the art director) as to what the client is looking for, meetings between account executives and the media buyer detailing what kind of reach and frequency (you’ll have to Google that one on your own) the client is hoping for, meetings between the creative team and the art buyer and the print production manager to get an idea of how much creativity the client’s budget will buy, and then meetings with the big bosses to fill them in on all the meetings that just transpired. Oh, and let’s not forget meetings with reps from various TV and radio stations, magazines, newspapers, and websites all trying to get a piece of your media budget spent on their client.

The Creative Process

The creative process is part strategy (knowing what the client wants to communicate), part skill (find a way to take the clients invariably dry message and make it interesting and meaningful) and part inspiration (I can’t explain that one; either you’ve got it or you don’t). The creative process takes place when the copywriter and the art director lock themselves in a room and stare at each other until someone comes up with an idea or even just a way of thinking about the product. Anything that will inspire creating thinking about widgets or shave cream or floor wax. Creative teams have been known to spend 12+ hours in rooms bringing in their meals so as not to be disrupted. I should add that creative people are generally paid handsomely for their efforts since their efforts often beget increased sales for the client. Think “Got Milk.”

Do You Have the Stuff

If you think you’ve got what it takes to be in advertising–particularly a copywriter–you’ll need to put a spec portfolio together (create ads that aren’t real but show how you would solve communications problems) and then cart yourself and your book (advertising lingo for portfolio) to anyone and everyone in the business who will give you 7-10 minutes. Creative Directors are your preferred target but a good copywriter will do in a pinch.

Trish Little is a blogger coming from the world of advertising. Interested in helping companies improve their external and internal communications? Several schools offer degree programs if the field, including University of Southern California and Northwestern University.

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