by Honest Fox
The wordsmith must Grab—Compel—Sell; this is the craft of writing copy.
The Craft of Writing Copy
There is the business side of advertising, and then there is the creative side of advertising per se. The creative department consists of two elements, art and copy. Art is the visual, while copy is the written segment. For example, the visual artist would do the company’s logo, while the company's tagline, slogan or product description would be written by the copywriter. One of the best ways to describe copywriting is to give a few memorable examples: Where's the beef? (Wendy’s), Just Do It. (Nike), Think Different. (Apple), Play. Laugh. Grow. (Fisher-Price), Be All That You Can Be. (U.S. Army); an abundance of other examples exist.
It is worth noting that the terms copywrite and copyright have two entirely different definitions are often confused with one another. The term copyright refers to legal ownership, distribution, and overall control of written or other works. The slogan examples mentioned above were created by copywriters and then sold to clients. Now that the slogan represents the brand of the company, it needs to be protected from unauthorized use. The purchasing company then files for legal ownership. That is copyright. Oles explains, “The term ‘copywriting’ refers to a specific type of language geared toward sales and marketing communications” (92).
Copywriting is not always as alluring as the examples used above. For many copywriters, mundane tasks are much more common. Not all copy brings about praise and recognition. The copywriter may be required to perform tedious assignments, such as, developing copy for the next catalog ad for a toaster. Developing a fresh, new perspective with a spark of written creativity that is both persuasive and marketable for such a common item, is not always a desirable task.
How a copywriter comes about his or her ideas are not always by conventional means. Ideas are generated or inspired in a number of ways. Peters describes the unconventional idea that inspired Nike’s Just Do It campaign: "Mr. Gilmore, the notorious spree-killer uttered the words ‘Let's do it’ just before a firing squad executed him in Utah in 1977.” Peters claims advertisements (art and copy) have a “cultural impact…” responsible for “changing the culture of America.” and is "more than just a way to move merchandise” (3).
Robert Half International published the 2007 Salary Guides, which implies that a copywriter can expect an average annual (2007) starting salary of $63,000 to $92,500. A possible explanation of the recent rise in starting salary rates could be attributed to an increased need for talented copywriters, mostly due to the explosive expansion of the internet over the past decade. Those that have experience with traditional print copy, along with, "online projects are especially valued and may earn even greater pay” (qtd. in “This Year’s Top Five Jobs” 8).
Every career has its challenges. Copywriting is not an exception to the rule and it too has its drawbacks. Vance comments, "There’s no easy way to become a copywriter. Even talented writers sometimes have trouble breaking into the profession…” and adds "you're only as good as your last ad…” However, Vance then emphasizes, “if you have talent, you’ll find work.” He asserts his belief that “there are fewer people than ever who actually write well…” Afterwards, Vance highlights that copywriting is “not just about writing…” successful copywriters must be “good at identifying trends, seeing patterns and getting the big picture…” and exceptionally “talented communicators…” (14).
Bly points out "writing copy for business clients isn’t all beer and skittles” (38). It is arguably reasonable for one to find this metaphor considerably atypical. However, this is an excellent example of how a successful copywriter employs the technique of wordplay. Oles suggests "Wordplay is a marvelous method of attracting attention” (94). Yankelovich reports “the average city dweller sees approximately 5,000 marketing messages per day…Consumers are experiencing substantial overload; if you want your message to be read—and acted upon—the right words matter” (qtd. in Oles 92).
Any perfectly crafted message, no matter how worthy its contents, is worthless if it does not contain the dexterity to grab attention and gracefully demand attention. The most clever, outrageous, attention-grabbing message is worthless, if its contents are not compelling. The intended result of copy is to sell product, otherwise it could be considered as nothing more than propaganda. In order for one to succeed in copywriting, the wordsmith must Grab—Compel—Sell; this is the craft of writing copy.
Bly, R.. "8 Common Copywriting Challenges." The Writer 1 Nov. 2009: Research Library, ProQuest. Web. 25 Nov. 2010.
Oles, Laura. "Choose Your Words Carefully." Dealerscope 1 Jan. 2009: ABI/INFORM Global, ProQuest. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.
Peters, Jeremy W. "The Birth of 'Just Do It' and Other Magic Words :[Business/Financial Desk]. " New York Times 20 Aug. 2009, Late Edition (East Coast): National Newspaper Abstracts (3), ProQuest. Web. 25 Nov. 2010.
"This Year's Top Five Jobs." Office Solutions 1 Apr. 2007: ABI/INFORM Global, ProQuest. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.
Vance, Todd. "Becoming a copywriter." Marketing News 10 Apr. 2000: ABI/INFORM Global, ProQuest. Web. 24 Nov. 2010.