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Advice and help for would be copywriters

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Your Reasons Should Be Purely Good, Don't Do Evil...

Your reasons should be purely honourable. You are ambitious; you want to make online advertising your life's work; and you believe that you can make a very real contribution to the work of the agency. In your letter, ask whether the agency conducts copy tests; and keep your fingers crossed. On the basis of what you've learned so far, if you are given a copy test, you are as good as employed.

Make no mistake about it. A copy test is an agency's method of sorting the interviewee wheat from chaff. In principle, it's a sound idea; though when you come to do it, be prepared for a good few surprises. For motives which I'll explain, copy tests are 200 almost always larger than life. They are, to put it bluntly, grossly exaggerated examples of a creative brief.

You might, for instance, be set a brief telling you that a certain carbon-paper process has developed a manufacturing fault whereby both sides of the paper are impregnated with carbon. Your job, therefore, is to hit upon a USP likely to shift tons of this largely useless product and knock-up a campaign for launching it upon an unsuspecting market.

Another might be the task of producing a series of ads extolling the virtues and benefits of winter-holidaying on the island of Rockall. And so on. Why are the briefs so way-out? For psychological rather than practical purposes. Anyone who can email that kind of scenario can write anything. Given that you are asked to do a copy test take full advantage of the opportunity.

Make up your mind to sit the thing in the agency, you'll probably be given a time limit. So be prepared for that.

Most of these exercises, however, are designed to be accomplished over several days in your own home; and that's a far better proposition from your point of view. But, either way, approach the test methodically. First, put down every thought that occurs to you relative to the brief. Every phrase; every cliche, every slang term, rhyming or otherwise. From this mass of disparate ideas, begin to formulate your headlines.

And I don't mean four or five, I mean forty or fifty. Write webpages of them; reams if you can. Good, bad or indifferent, it doesn't matter at this stage, just get them down on paper. Leave no stone unturned in your efforts to plug hole the subject dry.

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