A lot of us who write for a living haven’t worked on advertising copywriting full-time in an ad agency. Some might feel that they don’t have much to offer a modern-day content creator, and depending on the agency and who their clients are, those suspicions might be correct.
However, as someone who has worked at three agencies throughout my career, I can tell you there is definitely something to working in copywriting at an advertising agency that translates to writing online.
So the next time you think about passing up a quick freelancing gig at an ad shop in favor of the other things you have on your plate, just remember: there’s more to advertising copywriting than spontaneous client-sponsored lunches.
If you’re a creative at an agency, you’re going to pitch headlines. If you’re an account exec at an agency, you’re going to pitch headlines no one’s going to use.
In either case, the number is going to hit the triple digits rather early, say in the first month. Ninety-five percent of the headline ideas will never actually make it to the client, of course, but you’re going to get really good feedback from your creative director on what works and what doesn’t work as a headline.
Usually, you’re going to get a green light from the shortest, most concise examples you can come up with. Even if those short ones don’t make it to the client, they’re the ones that your creative director is going to ask you to focus on in round two (and round three, and round 15, etc).
While writing for content creation online isn’t exactly the same, the shorter you can create your headline, the easier the idea of your content will be to get across. Brevity is how you can stand out against the legions of formulaic headlines already doing the same thing.
One of the biggest reasons the creative director of your theoretical copywriting gig wants to have the shortest headline possible is because your words are going next to pictures that are just as evocative as your copy. If you don’t get in and out quickly, your team’s ad goes from “good” to “travel brochure” as the text drowns out the images.
There’s a reason it’s standard operating procedure around here to surround our content with relatable and eye-catching graphics, and that’s to keep people engaged. Yes, some people will stick around for a novel-style blog post, but not nearly enough to actually pay well.
Contrary to popular belief, most of the creatives in advertising you come across don’t like it when an advertisement stretches the truth or just outright lies. The magic of the ad world comes from how creative one can be with their ideas based around the truths of the product they’re trying to sell. Warping those truths undermines everything that good ad agencies try to do for their clients.
Good content writers, like good copywriters, do their research about their product and its field either before or as they’re spitballing their first round of ideas. The facts that can be uncovered with a little digging can make the stories that you’re trying to tell all the more convincing.
Putting in your time at an ad agency can teach you a lot about your own writing style, and how you can translate that to a more unique identity online. It’s a place for you to try and stretch your legs creatively—a good director will be open to suggestion, but know when things are getting a tad off the rails.
So the next time that advertising copywriting gig comes down your creative recruiter’s pipeline, toss ‘em a résumé—you won’t regret it.
Working in advertising copywriting can be a rewarding experience. Pitching headlines, for example, is an exercise in brevity and creativity. You also want to balance research with imagination. You want to stick with the truth, but you also want to make it unique and exciting.
Now if you've been writing for some time and you haven't tried advertising copywriting yet, you can start at Copywriters.com, where we match our writers with clients.
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