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A Tete-a-Tete with a Copywriter

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Q - What was it about copy writing that interested you initially?

A - I always wanted to write. I didn't care whether it was in journalism, advertising, public relations, literature, a novel, short stories, or whatever. I've always wanted to write. I took the usual steps-worked on the high school newspaper, read everything I could get my hands on, and majored in English and journalism in college.

Copy writing is a funny sort of business, because it's not exactly writing. I'm very curious and nosy, and I like strange pieces of information. That's one of the fun parts of this job. I now know everything about face soaps, and I know everything about the ingredients in Mexican food, and all kinds of things.

I envisioned my own favorite kind of writing, and the things I was best at were the shorter, quicker-hitting things, especially with a light touch. I am not the kind of person who has the discipline to sit down and write a novel. My mind works faster than that; and I grow bored faster than that.

Q - Could you describe a typical career path?

A - There's no set career path. We had a guy make vice-president the age of twenty-nine. Some people work on entry-level stuff and who lot longer than that. It just depends on how good you are and ho visible you are.

I started as a copywriter-there's seldom a junior job in cop. You can't go through and dot people's "i's" for them. Once you are: you are it. I had an advertisement due the day I arrived.

When I was hired, I wrote print advertising for one account. I did that for a year, and in the course of a year I must have written about 300 to 400 advertisements. At the end of that year, I got transferred to television account, so my title stayed the same but it was considered good move for me. Four years ago I got a promotion. Promotions don mean much, and titles don't mean much for writers. Winning breath awards is what's important. It gets you known and gives you a reputation in the business, which you can use to get more money and to g" onto better accounts.

Creative directors are very hesitant to hire people out of college, because there is really nothing in college that will prepare you for career in advertising, not even an advertising major. There's a lot of training that has to take place, and the majority of creative director simply don't want to take the time to do that, especially if the workload is heavy. If you started at our company in an entry-level position, you would probably work on things like spec sheets, which are fact sheet for appliance manufacturers, those little things you look at and throw away. It might have a few little blurbs about how wonderful the thing has been. As a brand-new writer, you would be assigned to write those little blurbs.

I supervise a person who has the title of copywriter. I am the copy supervisor. The next step for me, and one that may happen at an; time, is to associate creative director. An associate creative director get: a little bit more involved with client contact and is expected to do more of the presenting than the copy supervisor. Above the associate creative director is the director, who is responsible for the entire creative department.

If you look down the hall in an advertising agency, you don' see anybody over forty-five or fifty years old, and nobody knows exactly; where they all go. It's one of the great mysteries of the advertising business. I think the account people go over to the client side and become advertising managers somewhere. The account people are under stress too, but not the same kind of stress. They are not always having to come up with fresh ideas all the time, they just have to work hard. The creative people become novelists, or screen writers, or directors of commercials, or open restaurants; I don't know what they do. I certainly can't be doing this for another ten years. Sometimes I can't see doing this for another ten weeks.

Q - What kind of organizational structure do you have at your agency?

A - The creative service department is divided up into groups that consist of copywriters and art directors. The copywriter and art director report to an associate creative director, whose job is to pass judgment on what they do. Above the associate creative director is another creative director, to whom three or four associate creative directors' report. The former then reports to the overall creative head, who runs the whole department.

There are three basic occupations in the group: copywriter, art director, and producer. The producer only works in radio and television. Usually the producer only gets involved after the spot is sold and when you are sure you're going to go ahead with it. The producer is responsible for making the finished commercial come out the way it is supposed to; works with film directors and music houses, who are hired on a free-lance basis, and handles the money and the timetable. The writer and he art director work in teams. Sometimes the writer comes up with the visual idea and the art director comes up with the headline; it's not a clear-cut thing at all. It's very rare for me to sit and stare at my type-writer behind a closed door. We both stare at it. Your partner becomes as close to you as your right hand-you begin to think alike, even to dress dike.

Here there are six or seven creative groups within the creative department. My group has about twenty people in it. There is a creative director for each group, and an executive creative director of the whole agency. We have one group in this agency that does a lot of fashion work, and if we got a new fashion account, their group might be the logical place to put it.
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