For exclusive rights in work of authorship, see Copyright
Copywriting is the use of words to promote a person, business, opinion or idea. Although the word copy may be applied to any content intended for printing (as in the body of a newspaper article or book), the term copywriter is generally limited to such promotional situations, regardless of media (as advertisements for print, television, radio or other media). The author of newspaper or magazine copy, for example, is generally called a reporter or writer or a copywriter.
(Although the word copywriting is regularly used as a noun or gerund, and copywrite is sometimes used as a verb by professionals.)
Thus, the purpose of marketing copy, or promotional text, is to persuade the reader, listener or viewer to act â€” for example, to buy a product or subscribe to a certain viewpoint. Alternatively, copy might also be intended to dissuade a reader.
Copywriting can appear in direct mail pieces, taglines, jingle lyrics, web page content (although if the purpose is not ultimately promotional, its author might prefer to be called a content writer), online ads, e-mail and other Internet content, television or radio commercial scripts, press releases, white papers, catalogs, billboards, brochures, postcards, sales letters, and other marketing communications media.
Content writing on websites is also referred to as copywriting, and may include among its objectives the achievement of higher rankings in search engines. Known as "organic" search engine optimization (SEO), this practice involves the strategic placement and repetition of keywords and keyword phrases on web pages, writing in a manner that human readers would consider normal.
Most copywriters are employees within organizations such as advertising agencies, public relations firms, company advertising departments, large stores, marketing firms, broadcasters and cable providers, newspapers, book publishers and magazines. Copywriters can also be independent contractors freelancing for a variety of clients, at the clients' offices or working from their own, or partners or employees in specialized copywriting agencies.
A copywriter usually works as part of a creative team. Agencies and advertising departments partner copywriters with art directors. The copywriter has ultimate responsibility for the advertisement's verbal or textual content, which often includes receiving the copy information from the client. (Where this formally extends into the role of account executive, the job may be described as "copy/contact.") The art director has ultimate responsibility for visual communication and, particularly in the case of print work, may oversee production. Either person may come up with the overall idea for the advertisement or commercial (typically referred to as the concept or "big idea"), and the process of collaboration often improves the work.
Copywriters are similar to technical writers and the careers may overlap. Broadly speaking, however, technical writing is dedicated to informing readers rather than persuading them. For example, a copywriter writes an ad to sell a car, while a technical writer writes the operator's manual explaining how to use it.
Because the words sound alike, copywriters are sometimes confused with people who work in copyright law. These careers are unrelated.
Famous copywriters include David Ogilvy, William Bernbach and Leo Burnett. Many creative artists spent some of their career as copywriters before becoming famous for other things, including Peter Carey, Dorothy L. Sayers, Viktor Pelevin, Eric Ambler, Joseph Heller, Terry Gilliam, William S. Burroughs, Salman Rushdie, Don DeLillo, Lawrence Kasdan, Fay Weldon, Philip Kerr and Shigesato Itoi. (Herschell Gordon Lewis, on the other hand, became famous for directing violent exploitation films, then became a very successful copywriter.)
The Internet has expanded the range of copywriting opportunities to include web content, ads, commercial emails and other online media. It has also brought new opportunities for copywriters to learn their craft, conduct research and view others' work. And the Internet has made it easier for employers, copywriters and art directors to find each other.
As a consequence of these factors, along with increased use of independent contractors and virtual commuting generally, freelancing has become a more viable job option, particularly in certain copywriting specialties and markets. A generation ago, professional freelance copywriters (except those between full-time jobs) were rare.
While schooling may be a good start or supplement in a budding copywriter's professional education, working as part of an advertising team arguably remains the best way for novices to gain the experience and business sense required by many employers, and expands the range of career opportunities.
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