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What does an Advertising Copywriter do?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An advertising copywriter is a professional writer who creates marketing campaigns and advertisements. A copywriter might create content for websites, physical publications, billboards, or commercial scripts. Clients depend on copywriters to come up with clever, funny, or informative ads that customers will find interesting. Some large corporations staff full- or part-time writers to work on multiple marketing campaigns, though many advertising copywriters are self-employed contractors, offering freelance services to different clients.

Most copywriters thoroughly research the products and services about which they are asked to write so that they can produce accurate, appealing advertisements. They also consider the target audience and formulate their language and style in a way that will be interesting and attention-grabbing. A client may want a one-line phrase, a catchy jingle, or a multiple-paragraph summary of a product or service. After getting a general idea of the client's wishes, the advertising copywriter comes up with the specifics about the campaign.

Copywriters often work closely with clients and other marketing professionals to make sure there is agreement about advertising campaigns. It is typical for a copywriter to submit several versions of an advertisement to his or her client, who either chooses one or makes suggestions on how to improve them. Once the written content has been approved by the client, the advertising copywriter might work with graphic designers or video producers to construct an attractive final piece.

It is common for an advertising copywriter to specialize within a particular industry or medium. Many Internet copywriters provide freelance services to different companies and websites, creating banner ads and short articles that are placed on other online sites. An advertising copywriter may focus on creating material for printed publications, such as magazines, newspapers, signs, banners, and billboards. Finally, some advertising copywriters specialize in creating scripts and scenes for television commercials, radio spots, and movie trailers.

An individual who wants to become an advertising copywriter has several options for breaking into the field. Some people choose to pursue bachelor's degrees or higher in marketing, writing, journalism, or communications. A degree can prepare a prospective copywriter for the various business and writing duties of the job, and college experience is a requirement of many employers. Other professionals begin their careers as general freelance writers, perhaps writing informational articles, technical papers, or grants to gain experience. By building a writing portfolio and obtaining strong references, a hopeful copywriter may get the opportunity to submit a resume and samples to potential employers.

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Discussion Comments

By MrMoody — On Dec 04, 2011

@hamje32 - I'd just like to point out that advertising agencies get flooded with freelance submissions. I think if you really want to break in, you should specialize.

For example, if you’re really technical, then focus on writing copy for companies that make gizmos and gadgets. Join a professional organization for technical communicators to beef up your credentials a little bit.

Then, when advertisers need technical copy, they’ll think of you first above the other copywriters.

By hamje32 — On Dec 04, 2011

@miriam98 - I’ve done some advertising copywriting too, on the side. The most important advice I could give others is to know the product that your client is selling, and know it well.

After all, if you don’t really understand the product and why it’s so good, what makes you think you can write compelling copy for others to read? In advertising, they stress that you need to sell benefits, not features. Features are what the product has, but benefits are what the product will do for you. In other words, sell the sizzle, not the steak.

By miriam98 — On Dec 03, 2011

I’ve done work as a freelance advertising copywriter. I’ve written web page sales letters, landing pages, direct mail pieces and press releases, to name a few of the most common formats.

The best way to get started is not to pitch the advertising companies; they will usually shun you, especially if you don’t have samples to show them. What you want to do is sign up for one of the reverse auction job sites, where they post jobs for freelancers to bid on.

Bid on these jobs (bid conservatively at first) and then do a good job writing the advertising copy. Study the copy of professional sales writers to get a feel for how the pros do it.

After awhile, you’ll have a portfolio and you can start pitching the ad agencies, who will usually pay you a lot more money, too.

By cloudel — On Dec 02, 2011

My aunt is an advertising agency copywriter, and she gets to do the big ads that thousands of people see. She designs billboards and internet banner ads for her clients, who pay a lot of money, so they expect excellence.

She often has to meet with them several times and pitch new ideas during each meeting until they are satisfied. After that, she meets with a designer to come up with a plan.

Once they have an actual ad designed, she has another meeting with the client, and she shows him how his ad will look. If he doesn't like it or has suggestions for slight alterations, she and the designer will keep working together until they have pleased him.

When someone pays thousands of dollars for a single ad that will be viewed by countless people, they have the right to be picky. Everyone in her office knows that this is just how the business operates, and they don't get offended at having to make multiple changes.

By Perdido — On Dec 02, 2011

@wavy58 – I would love to be an advertising copywriter, but I am afraid I might not have what it takes. Like you said, some people are just naturally great at it, while others are stumped for ideas. I would hate to spend four years studying to be one and still be unable to succeed at it.

Does anyone reading this actually hold an advertising copywriter job? If so, can you tell me how hard it is to come up with a steady stream of good ideas? Is it possible for someone to develop this skill in college and with experience, or is it really a natural talent, like singing?

By wavy58 — On Dec 01, 2011

I am a graphic designer for an advertising agency, and copywriters work closely with me every day to develop effective ads. I have a lot of respect for what they do, and I think that they have the same for me.

I could never think of as many creative slants and phrases as they do all day long. I once tried to think of even one idea for an ad by myself, and I could not do it.

I can come up with cool designs and attractive layouts quickly, but copywriting just isn't in my genes. I think some people are born with this gift.

By Oceana — On Dec 01, 2011

Some of the best advertising copywriters are those who also have a good understanding of graphic design. At my college, graphic designers could choose to emphasize either journalism or marketing in their studies, and either of these subjects provide a good background for advertising copywriters.

I have worked with copywriters who had no concept of visual design, and I have also worked with writers who knew both very well. I can definitely say that the ones who understood both marketing and design provided much better campaigns in the end than those who only knew how to write a catchy slogan.

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