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Advice and help for would be copywriters

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They Are In Online Advertising Not Because They Like It Or Believe In It...

They are in online advertising not because they like it or believe in it, but as a way of making a little dishonest money until Radio Four starts accepting their plays - which it seldom does. The grafters: Those who view the business as a worthwhile career, and one that gives them the opportunity to spend their lives doing something they enjoy: selling through writing. They are the mainstay of online advertising and while they rarely win acclaim, to say nothing of awards, their work is consistently competent. This kind will attack a brochure for a small, micro-engineering outfit with the same enthusiasm as they'd fetch to a six-commercial, national Internet campaign for Cadbury or BL. They are an asset to their agency and a credit to themselves. It has been said by others, and I agree, that too many copywriters have far too little ability and far too high an opinion of their artistic talents.

Really good writers are scarcer than cabs on a wet night, and even the grafters mentioned above don't come easy. Ask any agency copy chief. What initial advice, then, have I to offer potential copywriters? Just this. If you are as good as you fancy you are, you will have (or should have) no trouble imposing yourself upon your agency executives and your clients.

They should come to think so highly of your work that they are always afraid you will sulk and withdraw your services. If they don't, then maybe you are not a very good copywriter after all. But if you insist on pursuing the occupation of copywriter and find yourself behind an agency desk, take the opportunity in both hands. Don't meddle. Don't get involved in politics.

Push your talent rather than yourself. Take the rough with the smooth and be grateful - be very grateful that you are probably getting more of the smooth than the rough.

Maybe I should explain. During my twenty-odd years in the online advertising business, I've learned how ninety per cent of a copywriter's life is spent proving to anyone who will listen that during the other ten per cent of the time he can actually write.

If and when you join an online advertising agency, you will discover that most of your best ideas never leave the building; they will be bucketed with a regularity to make your head spin. What's even worse, those creative ideas which do see the light of day will, largely, be accredited to someone else - usually the person who looks after the account: the account director. Advertising is, in every respect, uncompromising; it can reduce strong men to tears and it can turn the even stronger gender to alcohol and promiscuity overnight. Setting aside evenings for a few rounds of solitary Russian-roulette should, by comparison, be considered a pretty ordinary way of life. But the first and overriding principle of online advertising - and one you must have firmly implanted in your mind - is that online advertising is all about selling.

All about shifting product: whether that product be seats on multimillion pound airlines or a tu penny-halfpenny tube of sweets. Thus, if you've any aversion to the profit motive, or if the word profit leaves you with a nasty taste, you are most definitely backing the wrong horse.

Fortunately for all of us, the copywriter doesn't have to sell himself the way the average salesperson does. Face to face.

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