Ever felt the urge to find out something and ultimately, find out nothing? Ever had the need to go ask your friend what is his/her job and end up being more confused than you were in the first place?

Picture this typical scenario.

“Hi Mark. How are you?”

“Fine, thank you.”

“What do you do, Mark?”

“I’m a Copywriter.”

“Wow! That’s great!”

Minutes later, the million dollar question pops up.

“So what does a Copywriter do?”

Duhh! I have the urge to tell him that Copywriters COPY stuff like words and writes it either on paper, or on a wordprocessor.

So here it is. Stuff you always wanted to find out and once you’ve found out – you’re still acting like you’ve listened to an explanation in Swahili.

A Copywriter works in the advertising industry. He/She is a wordsmith. (For the gender-conscious, I shall be using HE to represent also the ‘she’). Because advertisements are found in various media – print (inclusive of newspaper, magazines, flyers, brochures etc.), TV and Radio commercials, webpage and so forth – the words you see or hear are usually the work of a Copywriter.

Did this in 1996 for a TV commercial shown only in Cambodia
Did this in 1996 for a TV commercial shown only in Cambodia

This is the science of writing persuasively. Notice the words in my sentences are structurally short. This is because the mind can only retain several words in one sentence. I said ‘retain’ not in reference to retarded individuals but because Copywriters want you to remember the benefits of the product/service. This is called ‘instantaneous recall”. Like when you see a Coca-Cola ad- and, if the copy extolling the benefits of drinking Coca-Cola is strong (which I don’t seem to see any) – then, you will want to go buy one and drink it.

Next – we don’t follow the typical rules of English grammar. In short – Copywriters can be labelled as English language dropouts. Where but in Copywriting can you find sentences that begin with “because” or “and”? We don’t write to impress more than we can express. We write so you, the reader – will be persuaded like mindless lemmings to buy what you don’t need. Yes, you can call us professional bullshitters. That we are. And so are the make-up you use, that Christian Dior fragrance.

My proposed concept for Toyota Malaysia
My proposed concept for Toyota Malaysia

I waltzed into Copywriting not knowing what the heck Copywriters are supposed to do. The late Wong Mun Kin, one of the best creative minds in Malaysia, interviewed me. Since I had no experience whatsoever in advertising, I had no portfolio. Instead, I showed him the greeting cards I made for my ex-girlfriend Lily. Maybe he was impressed that I could draw, sketch and colour, and also write nonsense. After the interview that day, I went home feeling like an idiot. But they saw even idiots have idiot luck. I was hired, selected from amongst the 300 and more applicants for the position.

I still like reading. I read non-fiction heavyweights like “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” (English version), “1421 – the year China discovered America”, and fiction like the entire Neil Gaiman collection. You should read Neil Gaiman’s books. He is really a very talented writer!

The persuasive words in Copywriting. NEW! FREE! NOW! WOW! INCREDIBLE! Go flip through any newspaper and you’re sure to find words like these.

Last but not least. Don’t have the notion that Copywriters only write. And Art Directors only create the visuals. Both copy (the words that appear in the ad) and visual must work together. That is to say, writing through the eyes of an Art Director and visualizing through the eyes of a writer.


2 thoughts on “Copywriting

  1. Copywriter walks into a bar.
    Bartender: What are you having?
    Copywriter: I’ll have a draft.
    Bartender: Hmmph. You’re the copywriter. Create one yourself!!

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