Drafting ad copy: getting started
In recent posts, I have provided tips for designers wishing to take on copywriting assignments, in addition to their usual design projects.
So far we have covered the preliminary briefing meeting with the client, and what to bear in mind when you conceptualize the general format of your promo item.
Now it’s time to sit down and start writing—but where do you start? In this post I suggest some basic procedures for drafting out copy.
Check you have all the information you need
Ask yourself the following questions to determine if you are sufficiently prepared to write:
- Do you know what the key selling points are?
- Have you and your client agreed on a central message?
- Do you know exactly who you’re writing to—and what will appeal to them most?
- Have you listed the product’s key features and benefits?
- Are you clear on the aims of the promotion?
- Do you know what action you are asking the reader to take?
- Have you established a ‘concept’ or an ‘angle’ to direct your copy?
Are there any questions listed above that you can't answer? If so, go back and review the key answers your client gave you in the briefing meeting.
Ready to start? Use the following tips to help you structure your copy and avoid the dreaded writer’s block!
Start by laying out the basics
- What is the product and who is it for?
- What is unique about the product?
- What are the product’s most appealing features? What are the benefits of those features?
- What is the overall benefit of the product? What does it all mean for the reader?
Think about your reader
If your copy is looking uninspiring, try writing from your reader’s point of view. Think about who your readers are and what their needs are. Start by pretending to be a typical reader. Use your meeting notes to create a picture of his/her daily routines, motivations, aspirations, and fears. Try to incorporate the following into your copy:
- Identify and recognize the reader’s need for the product.
- Convince the reader that the product can fulfil that need (by talking about the relevant features and benefits).
AIDCA is the industry-standard format for structuring a sales pitch. It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Conviction, and Action.
Draw the reader into your body copy with an arresting headline and visual.
State the Unique Selling Point and show how the product meets the reader’s needs.
Communicate benefits to whet the reader’s appetite for the product.
Prove the product’s superiority with statistics and testimonials to close the sale and make the reader feel he/she has no alternative but to act.
Create a sense of urgency to encourage the reader to respond right now!
Don’t judge what you’re writing—just write!
The first stage of writing is to go into free-writing auto-drive! Strive for quantity over quality. Go back and revise later.
Don’t worry about whether your copy is good or not during the first draft stage—the only way to get 1000 sparkling words is to start with 3000 muddled words. Starting with short text and filling out with unnecessary sentences will make for woolly copy.
© Shaun Crowley 2007
Shaun Crowley has worked as a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant. He currently works as a communications manager for a major UK publishing company and is the author of The Freelance Designer's Self-Marketing Handbook and 100 Copywriting Tips for Designers and Other Freelance Artists.