What does an advertising copywriter do? We tell all

by Dawn Ouedraogo 

What does an advertising copywriter do

If you’ve got bags of imagination and more than enough writing skill to go around, an advertising career could be just right for you. Passion, flair and determination will also be needed a-plenty, as the written words you supply for client briefs will provide the “voice” and “tone” of the company, service or products you’re advertising.

Just as we were led to believe by the TV drama Mad Men, it can be exciting and motivational to work in the high-powered field of advertising. But, you will be constantly judged and measured by the standard and results of the campaigns you produce. So, don’t expect this to be an easy ride career at all.

So, what does an advertising copywriter do?

The job of an advertising copywriter is usually based within the creative department of a business, agency or media company and you’ll be working with an art director to create the ideas for successful advertising campaigns and developing these ideas into the finished piece. You could also work on a freelance basis, but you may be advised to wait until you’ve achieved a good reputation in the business before branching out solo in this way.

The sort of copy you could be handling includes:

  • Headlines, straplines, slogans and catchphrases to grab consumer attention and promote the required image
  • Text and body copy for leaflets and print advertising
  • Creating web adverts, social media blurbs and texts for mobile apps
  • Writing scripts for short radio adverts or TV commercials

While you will be fully occupied with creating the textual aspects of campaigns, the art director works on the visual side. And both of these should be complementary and usually geared towards attracting as many customers, viewers or consumers as possible.

Your job will also involve working alongside media planners and buyers and with production teams to ensure campaigns are carried out appropriately.

Required skills

  • So you’re enthusiastic about a role like this and believe you’ve got the creative ability to succeed? Some basic skills required by advertising copywriters include:

    • Great language skills and an ability to write in different styles to suit clients and products
    • The ability to create clean copy, with no spelling mistakes, typos or issues with grammar
    • Analytical ability
    • Good teamwork and high levels of communication and social skills
    • Vivid imagination and quick wits
    • Ability to meet deadlines and work in a pressurised environment
    • Organisational ability
    • Self-motivation
    • Flexibility
    • Adaptability
    • Determination
    • Attention to detail
    • Resilience and the ability to accept negative criticisms
    • Commercial awareness
    • Knowledge of fashions, trends, and popular culture
    • Great research ability
    • IT, proofreading and admin capabilities

Working as an advertising copywriter

Most of these roles require advertising graduates or even postgraduates and it’s often the case that intern roles are the norm when entering the contemporary working environment.

The advertising sector is very competitive, so networking is important throughout university studies, during your entry-level positions and on an ongoing basis.

Evidencing your abilities

You’ll need a comprehensive portfolio of work to take to meetings and interviews or email potential clients and agencies. But should be prepared to listen to criticisms and comments about your ideas. In many ways though, this is all part of the learning process and can help you develop your skills further. Many companies and ad agencies do actually view the portfolio as being more important than paper qualifications, so it’s important all work on display is of a high quality and presented in an attractive manner.

If you’re trying to break into advertising and struggling to source material for a comprehensive portfolio, you could consider the benefits of signing up with online agencies while studying. Working for an agency like Copify helps you build a valuable portfolio stuffed with the killer straplines and well-crafted digital content needed to impress employers.

Role responsibilities

You will be handling several clients at any one time in your role as an advertising copywriter, so could be working with the same art director or with a few different art directors. The variety of client briefs adds interest to the job and means no two days are the same.

Your job role will involve familiarising yourself with each client company and the products or services offered. Alongside researching the target audience and the sorts of advertising provided by competitor businesses. Your creative ideas will be informed by all this information and research, so it’s important you carry out all the background work required.

Interpreting client briefs is integral to the role and all ideas formulated will need to be approved and signed off by your creative director. As projects develop, it’s likely you’ll need to amend and adjust the copy you present, so it’s important to take great care over grammar and spelling at all times.

Once your copy has been approved by your client, it will be passed over to production teams for completion and you will also be involved in overseeing this task to ensure it is executed well.

Starting salary

You should expect to achieve a starting salary of £20,000 to £25,000 annually for your first copywriter role, although this can leap to £50,000 or more in a fairly short space of time, once you’ve proved your worth.

Career development

Progressing your career depends a great deal on the success of the campaigns you’ve handled. If you manage an award-winning campaign you could even get to work internationally and you’re sure to be in greater demand. The typical promotional journey is to progress from junior to middleweight, to senior copywriter and then on to group creative director, which will mean managing projects from a group of creatives. It can take around ten years to progress to the role of Creative Director within any business, and this will involve taking responsibility for the whole creative department.

Many advertising copywriters work on a freelance basis, and this gives the ability to pick and choose assignments and work with client briefs that are most appealing. Of course, it’s important to build a good reputation in the field before branching out into freelance work. Alternatively, building a good rapport with a few advertising agencies can help ensure there’s always a stream of available jobs.

Once you’ve built a network of professional contacts within the advertising industry, you’ll find it can be quite easy to move from a freelance role to creating and building your own advertising agency. Of course, this sector is really competitive and, in many ways, you’re only as good as your latest campaigns.

If you’re just starting out and want to know how to become a copywriter, check out our guide or sign up with Copify.


Main image credits: Pixabay

Internal image credits: Kaboompics.comKaboompics.comKaboompics.com

Dawn Ouedraogo

Dawn Ouedraogo

A qualified journalist and former features writer, Dawn works full time as a freelance writer. With a background in history and journalism, she joined Copify in 2017 and has written on a number of topics including marketing, health, travel, business and finance, and home and garden.