Education and Training: College
Salary: Median—$54,410 per year
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Advertising copywriters work closely with other members of an advertising team to create snappy, unified, eye-catching advertisements. The team usually includes an account executive, an art director, and a media expert. The account executive asks the client or advertiser what he or she would like the advertisements to accomplish. Then, when the guidelines are established, the team members think up new ideas or concepts that will achieve the client's goals.
A concept is simply a new way of looking at or presenting a product or service. It is a way of telling readers, listeners, and viewers what the product will do for them. Several concepts are often suggested and presented to the client for approval.
Once a client approves a particular concept, the team starts to create the ad. The media expert decides whether a print medium, such as magazines or newspapers, or a broadcast medium, such as television or radio, would work best to promote the product. The art director decides how the ad should look and provides the necessary visual support. The copywriter writes the "copy," or words that make up the advertising message.
The client normally provides the basic information that must appear in the advertisement; however, researchers, and sometimes copywriters, may gather additional information about the product and why people buy it.
Copywriters write the captions, the headlines, and the text for print advertisements. For radio and television commercials, copywriters write the actors' scripts. They may also manage the actual production of the advertisement.
Most copywriters work for advertising agencies that provide services to companies with a product to sell. Some work for companies that handle their own advertising. Still others work for large stores with special advertising departments or even for firms that carry advertising, such as magazines and television or radio stations. Copywriting can also be done on a freelance or per-project basis.
Education and Training Requirements
A college degree is almost mandatory for a copywriter's job at an established advertising agency. Aspiring copywriters should have a talent for persuasion, a vivid imagination, and a fluency with language.
Interested high school students should take all the writing and journalism courses they can and participate in any extracurricular activities that enable them to develop writing skills. Most colleges offer majors in advertising as part of their curriculum. Courses in writing, marketing, literature, business administration, journalism, and communications are also very useful. Familiarity with computers is invaluable.
Getting the Job
Prospective copywriters can apply directly to any firm with an advertising department. Beginners who are hired by an advertising agency often start out as a copy secretary or copy assistant and learn the business on the job. From there qualified candidates are promoted to a position that requires copywriting skills. Some of the best jobs for beginners are in large companies and department or chain stores that have their own advertising or publicity departments. Beginners in these firms are usually given more responsibility than they would be given at an advertising agency.
The competition for jobs in advertising is intense; only the most talented copywriters achieve success in the field. One way candidates can attract an employer's attention is to present a portfolio of original ads they have written. These ads may have been composed for a high school or college newspaper, or they may be fake advertisements for real or imaginary products. Many advertising agencies require prospective copywriters to complete a copy assignment of several product ads before considering an interview.
Advertising clubs—organizations for professionals in the field of advertising—are a good source of information about agencies and companies in various cities that need assistants. Interested individuals should also contact employment agencies, college placement offices, newspaper classified ads, and Internet job banks for leads on copywriting positions.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
A copywriter with both selling skill and creativity has a good future in advertising. Many copywriters become copy supervisors and some become creative directors. An ambitious copywriter with leadership capability may become the president of an agency or the head of an advertising department. Some copywriters go to work for their former clients or set up their own agencies.
Employment growth in advertising is expected to be good through the year 2014. However, competition for these jobs will continue to be keen. Although companies reduce their advertising budgets when profits are down, advertising workers are expected to be needed as the number of consumer products increases. New technology in appliances and products, competition between existing and new industries, and the growing population's need for services will keep ad agencies busy.
Many copywriters do not just stay in the office and write. They become actively involved in the production of their ads and may spend days shooting a television commercial with a camera crew, director, and actors. They may also visit recording studios, graphic design firms, and printing plants to oversee the production of their radio and print ads. The best opportunities for employment in the advertising field are found in major cities, especially in New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.
Copywriting is a high-pressure occupation. Copywriters are often expected to write ads very quickly to meet advertising campaign deadlines, and they may have to work overtime. Sometimes they are compensated with bonuses or time off during slow periods. Even the most talented copywriters may have little job security. For example, when an advertiser decides to "pull its account" from an agency and work with a new one instead, gifted writers who worked with that client may need to seek employment elsewhere.
Earnings and Benefits
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, advertising copywriters earn a median yearly income of $54,410. Because of greater competition in consumer product sales, copywriters who work at an ad agency usually make thousands of dollars more than those who work for publishers or industrial product firms.
Where to Go for More Information
American Advertising Federation
1101 Vermont Ave. NW, Ste. 500
Washington, DC 20005-6306.
Most large advertising agencies offer excellent benefits, including health insurance packages, paid vacations, and profit-sharing plans.