Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Gem of a Copywriter?
Copywriting is an art by itself
Copywriting like any other art-form takes its own time to reach perfection. It needs thorough practice and a burning ambition. Even if we arm ourselves with the required ammunition - the know-how, it still needs to be honed over a period of time to attain reasonable amount of perfection.

It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try writing. Or we should wait till we reach the perfection. We need to try and write at every opportunity. With each published ad you’ll get the confidence. It is like riding a bicycle. We make mistakes; we need to fall once or twice, several times over and bruise your legs and arms, to get hold of the balance.

I met a young copywriter in a good agency having few months of experience, who says he is fine working for big clients. It was a kind of a surprise to me as I really struggled to write initially when I started off (It rattles me even now to write convincing copy). Of course, I was writing in my own immature way; but copy is a different ball game and it is not that easy to connect to the reader I realized, albeit lately.

Stop pleasing everyone around

It is natural when you start to write initially. We always want that the agency folks, everyone, who reads should like our copy immediately. It was a kind of an acid test for you each time you embark on writing an ad or a brochure. The approvals of people - the client-servicing, creative director, and finally the client, do matter most to get your work published, though.

As a Jr. Copywriter (me especially) we tend to think of high sounding words the moment any ad is given. I always wanted to write words no one else had tried at least in the agency. It also depends on what you’re reading too. I was more enamoured by the Hindu, news paper, style of writing, which was more elite, targeting the academia. Hence, I subconsciously imitate such style. It was not so with copy though. We need to talk to prospects in the way they understand better, so that they make a decision to buy the product, or emotionally relate to it.

For instance, I wrote for a real estate client as:
“Salubrious Climate…”
without realizing the big science of ad writing and the great art to connect to the consumer through simple language.

Emulate the famous ads diligently

I used to look at several ads that are published in the publications and try to write like them. But then, I was in awe to write high-sounding words. The simple, but very effective, interactive style always used to elude me - However hard I try though. It was a mystery to crack an ad. I felt if I write like those reputed ads, which are very simple and direct, my copy may be trashed. I used to feel we need to zap the client with a lot academic language. (Believe me, It is difficult to get out of the mindset!)

We can’t pen the words in that way, as a matter of fact, for sheer fear of rejection. Now if you think what holds you back from writing the style of those simple and good ads, it’s because we feel we’re still not pros. We desperately lack the confidence. The reputation and acceptance is what propels them to set standards and formulate newer styles in copywriting. You need to practice writing till you feel you can stand up and justify your stand.

Knowing the process alone isn’t enough

It’s like cooking a delicious dish. We know the process but that may not guarantee us the original taste. (Tried cooking? it’s a great fun!) How much ever care you take in measuring the exact quantity of ingredients we may not get the taste which is if not exact, at least closer to the original.

The processes and the methods are all readily available to us through books and other sources. The effective style – the zing, is still eluding us like a mirage. Slowly, but steadily, we’ll come to know how to write it. Here, we need to bide the time and wait to get the refinement (test of patience, indeed!). Rigorous amounts of reading of many books, blogs and consistent writing of ads, brochures, articles etc will sure get us closer to our desired style: your personal style of a writer will take shape. Ogilvy in one of his books advises copywriters to copy others’ writing – borrowing some phrases; and in doing so he says one develops one’s style (I started following the same process to copy from all great writers).

Your conviction… Your style

Continuous writing, writing (and making as many mistakes that that there are none left) we feel the confidence to say what we really wanted to say. We need to undertake tremendous research about the product, the market and the target audiences’ whims and fancies. Coupled with the experience you gained, you will come out with some interesting ideas to put it across to your target audience. To put it in a succinct and clever way that catches the imagination. Try as different as you can!!!

This feeling of knowing your product and your prospect thoroughly will give you the confidence to put it in your own words. The way you write the copy, too, should have the same tone of your prospects so that you can get the desired results.

Here, let’s remember what William Bernbch has to say about the approach to writing copy: “Our job is to sell our clients’ merchandise, not ourselves. Our job is to kill the cleverness that makes us shine instead of the product. Out job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message”.


Vivienne said...

Write simply because you want those with a basic command of the English language to understand your client's product. In Asia, English is after all a foreign language. Those who have buying power may not have the language proficiency. It's our job to help communicate the benefits of using our client's products/services in the most effective method.

When Robert Kiyosaki explains financial related methods, he avoids using big words or trade jargon. That made learning from him easy.

Kate said...

I've been telling my students to develop their own style as well to find their own voice. It's hard but they've got to show the message they have in their essays just like copy.

Solomon said...

Hi Kate,
Let me thank you for visiting my blog in the first place. I wish you a very Happy New Year!
Writing like anyother, art etc. takes its own time. We need to practice and practice more. An amount of sensitivity to people, things around will help a great deal, I believe.

Solomon said...

Hi Vivienne!
Thank you for visiting my blog! I feel what you said is immensely true. Advertising copy should be as simple as possible and straight. But, that's not so easy (to my experience, though), given at an early stage of a career.

It comes through lot of practice. That's is the reason why, most of the pros write simple words, packed with jumbo power!
Wishing you and your family a Happy and Prosperous New Year!