Writing Advertising Copy by Amber Wilhelm
- Go White Board Big, or Go Home. Sit down with a giant white board and tons of colored dry-erase markers. If possible, grab a team for brainstorming and go crazy. Literally. Write down and praise over-the-top ideas. Draw pictures. Feed off of each other’s brain farts. Laugh. The sillier the better. Nothing gets shot down. Then you can reel it back in and see what has potential for the client.
- “That’s So Cliché,” Is a Cliché. Write down every cliché you’ve got stuck in your head. “Brand Spanking New, FYI, Gone to the Dogs, Through the Grape Vine, Piece of Cake…” There. Now you can get going on GOOD copy writing without those tripping you up. OR. If you get stuck on them, like I do, try twisting a cliché (I stuck “White Board” in the middle of “Go Big or Go Home” in tip number one).
- Word Vomit …not the most eloquent sounding tip, but it works! Anything that comes into your head, whether it makes sense or not, regurgitate it onto your computer (or ask a colleague to type while you speak). Once you’ve got your random thoughts down, you can begin to make sense of it. This really helps if you kind-of know what you want to say, but haven’t nailed it yet. Just talk the idea out of yourself, and onto paper.
- Dreaming of Your Ad Account. Your subconscious is telling you something: put a pen and paper on your night stand. Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m sleeping. (We almost named our Nevada IMC class “Team Night Terror” because of this).
- Snack. No one can think on an empty stomach. While my team chose donut holes and pizza, I would recommend something a little healthier that will give you some staying power. Cookies only last so long.
- Choose One Distraction. Get rid of as many distractions as possible, but keep one to use for a mental break. My favorite was flinging foam darts at a target we drew on the white board (we even turned it into a competition). Then, we could move on and be more productive. Limit yourself to 5 minutes though. Things could get out of hand otherwise… and darts would be flying all day long!
- Print It Out. Once you’ve got your copy on the computer screen, print it. Read it. Read it again. Read it backwards. Read it with different voices. Have someone else read it. Mark it up with a blue or green pen (red ink is too angry). Tack it on a cork board above your computer, and make the changes. Keep pinning your new changes over your old. It’s fun to see the progress…makes me feel productive.
- Who Is Reading My Writing? Once you get all your ideas on paper, ask yourself: Who is reading this? Is it a wide audience? A niche audience? Young? Old? Men? Women? Hippie, average, wealthy, children, parents? Always write for your intended target (relevant research helps in this department), and make sure to reflect the values and voice of your client as well.
- Cross It Off The List. We started writing our team’s to-do list on the white board. As the tasks were crossed off, everyone could see how productive we’ve been, and what areas still needed work. (This is an appropriate time for red ink. It is immediately nixed from the ‘angry copy editing’ category and becomes an aggressive ego boost.) It’s a good feeling knowing the whole team is getting stuff done.
- Laugh. I recently job shadowed at a small PR firm where the Account Executive was approving creative ideas for a client. The copy writer threw in some random ideas just to make her laugh. The project? Naming a loan program. My favorite faux name? “Living La Vida Happy”….it definitely didn’t fit what the client was looking for, but the team was laughing and being productive in the creative process.
In my experience, having fun boosts creativity, which directly translates to productivity and collaboration. Grab some snacks, a white board, and your writing team…and just laugh a little. Your clients will thank you.
© Amber Wilhelm is a recent graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno. She says: These tips came from my experience while acting as a Copy Writer and Account Executive of our student Integrated Marketing Communications team, RENOvate Creative. I am now on the board of the young advertising professionals club Ad2 Reno, and blogging at http://moxiephilosophy.wordpress.com/
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