In advertising, we write like we talk. It's conversational. Brief. To the point.
I hope I make it look easy. But with 350,000 words published as a copywriter, I've had a lot of practice.
I've written for some 380 products and more than 100 corporations, including 150 brochures and catalogs, dozens of posters, 77 TV spots and 87 websites. If you'd like to see a sample of my work as a writer, you don't have far to go. I've written everything on this website to serve as an example, of course. And came up with all the concepts behind those words such as how I position myself so you can more easily understand what I do.
Concept, not words
A copywriter is an advertising writer. But the toughest job of a copywriter is not writing: it's coming up with the concept. The "big idea." Traditionally, the copywriter was the person who came up with the concept for any ad campaign. The reason for that was when modern print advertising really got going in the late 1800s, newspapers couldn't yet reproduce photographs or graphics. It was just type. So the writers did everything connected with an ad.
Today the art director is just as likely to be the one who comes up with the concept. In most agencies, a copywriter and art director work together as a team.
Origin of the term "copywriter"
The reason an advertising writer is called a copywriter also comes from the same period. Again in those days, lead type was wedged into wooden trays, inked and used to print newspapers. It was common for the writer to check the first copy for errors. Hence, dialog began to frame itself around the word copy. "Who wrote this copy?" "Hopkins did. He's the copywriter." So in advertising, copy means "the words of an advertisement."
The horrible truth
Ads begin with a concept or "creative strategy." Then comes a headline. It's not too hard to write a good headline.
But good is not what we want! We want GREAT. And so we come to the horrible truth which separates the real copywriters from the fakes: How many headlines do you have to write to get one great one? Sometimes, maybe 200. Sometimes less. Amateurs often say, "Well, if you're good, it shouldn't take 200 versions." Tisk. Tisk. Writing a vast number of headlines is exactly how the pros do it. And we do it that way, because it works. We take pride in doing the best we can do. And we are not lasy.
Personally, I'd rather be underpaid than lend my name to anything that was less than spectacular.