What's the point of an advertising copywriter?


by Nigel Graber - Date: 2007-01-12 - Word Count: 541 Share This!

An advertising copywriter used to be the last thing I wanted to be. Why? Because I used to detest advertising. Part of me still does. This knobbly bit, here, see? You see, I firmly believed that advertising doesn't sell. But I'd misunderstood the role of advertising and the specific role of the advertising copywriter.

Fair enough. I was only 11. When I got bigger, I began to understand that advertising has two completely separate functions. There are those ads with whom the advertising copywriter has targeted big, public-domain companies. Leviathans of consumer society. For these companies, it's not the job of your advertising copywriter to flog their products. Oh no. He wants to whip things up. Put a stick into the wasps' nest of consumer emotion and make you feel something big.

Advertising copywriter's job

Well, when I say 'you', I mean the target audience. Which is the core of the advertising copywriter's job. To find the audience and target them, mercilessly. That means diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks. That's right. You wouldn't use the same language talking to your granny as you would to a teenage hoodie now, would you? You would? Stick to the day job.

The advertising copywriter doesn't need to be a psychologist, but he or she does need to have some understanding of consumer psychology. Enter the Consumer Involvement Theory. Let's not go into too much detail, but this is a way of figuring out how heavy the advertising copywriter's copy needs to be.

It all boils down to high or low product involvement, and balances rational and emotional responses, to create a sliding-scale model, from technical, features-driven copy to a light, benefit-laden funfest. Consider the Renault ads with the jiggling booties. They make me laugh. I always imagine the earnest Product Development Engineer putting forward some tentative suggestions in a written brief to the creative team - stuff about limited slip differentials, torque and wishbone suspension. Then the ad agency got hold of it.

Copywriters and brand-building

In the advertising copywriter's world, reaction is all. In general, you want them to feel something. Or you want them to think, understand or remember. It's called brand-building. Giving your client's product a bit of personality, so that it shapes people's attitudes. The advertising copywriter should focus on how people think, feel and act. What about the action bit? The selling? Well, that comes later. Or it's a natural follow-on, once people have decided they like to be associated with the product.

For small companies, one-man bands, and for specific promotions, you'll want some kind of action. A direct response. That's the job of direct mail.

Place your orders

Generally speaking, the advertising copywriter will want people to send a coupon, click on a website, or pick up the phone and place an order. Here, your 'offer' is the key element. This might mean free 'How to' information, free samples, two for the price of one, free CD, or 'order today and save 25%'. And, obviously, any kind of time-limiting within the offer is an absolute no-brainer. If people don't act immediately, they won't act at all.

So there we have it. An advertising copywriter's guide to advertising copy. With a bit of cod psychology thrown in. Think you can handle it? If not, check out my site at www.mightier-than.com.

Related Tags: advertising, copywriting, copywriter, advertising copywriter, freelance copywriter, advertising copywriting, freelance copywriting

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