Copywriting FAQ

Some people visit this site looking for general answers about breaking into the advertising copywriting field. Fair enough. Here are answers to some often-asked questions.

1)What does a copywriter do?

A copywriter writes the words in an advertisement. In practice, it's not that simple as a copywriter and art director usually work as a team. Together, they come up with concept: a selling idea for the ad, and execute it with a visual, headline and body copy.

Therefore, sometimes the writer will get a visual idea and the art director will discover -- or greatly enhance -- the headline.

The body copy is the writer's domain; it's not a shared task. So too, the photo or art work is the art director's task, along with type fonts and the overall design of the ad.

In writing a TV commercial, the tasks are even more intermingled. Often, in a good team, it's two creative people shouting out ideas to each other to build the commercial.

At the shoot, though, the roles again become fixed. The writer must revise the copy, if it needs it. The AD may offer new ideas on the shot-by-shot production of the spot.

In radio, there is no AD. The writer scripts the radio spot and its sound effects alone.

Prospective ad creative people should ask themselves: do I like to write? Or can I draw and design? That will determine which part of the creative process for which they are most suited.

2)How much does a copywriter make?

The salary of a copywriter with a couple years' experience in New York City is about $70,000. Nationally, that median pay is $50,000.

3)What can the top copywriters make?

A top-level copywriter in New York can make $120,000 or more.

After that, as you are promoted, the title "copywriter" is not used and you can become an associate creative director or creative director.

For more details on advertising careers and salaries, see www.salary.com and Creative Hotlist.

4)What other sites are important to the advertising industry?

Two print publications have vital advertising news sites:

Advertising Age and Ad Week. Both offer email newsletters to give you the latest news free.

5)What books do you suggest to learn about advertising?

One book I used to develop my portfolio is How to Put Your Book Together and Get a Job in Advertising: 21st Century Edition. Another great is a memoir by industry giant, Mary Wells Lawrence A Big Life In Advertising. Another important book that looks at innovative ad thinking is Hey Whipple, Squeeze This: the Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads by Luke Sullivan. Finally, a must-read of war stories from the commander's tent is Oglivy on Advertising. If Mr. Ogilvy can't fire up your interest in advertising, no one can.

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