By Dan Goubert
Get paid to eat hamburgers!
Now that I grabbed your attention (I learned that in Headline Writing 101), what if you actually could eat hamburgers and consider it “part of your job?”
Let me back it up… On a basic level, advertising copywriters create the written words, known as “copy,” for advertisements. This can range in length from 4-word billboard quips, to 30-second TV jingles, and all the way to website or brochure copies that span pages and pages (and pages and pages and pages!)
But it doesn’t stop at words. Copywriters are often responsible for thinking up the creative concepts for advertising campaigns, to the “big idea,” so to speak.
Since it isn’t easy to dream up the next “Just Do It” or “I’m Lovin’ It,” copywriters have to work hard. For prospective student copywriters like myself, and possibly you, it’s important to create speculative ads for real brands to show employers your chops.
There are entire books written about the copywriting process, and I’m far from an expert, but I’ll share a few nuggets I’ve picked up from class and local professionals about what to do when faced with a blank piece of paper, and an impending deadline.
1. Bucket Your Benefits- Say you’re tasked with writing headlines for a new double-decker hamburger. While it may be tempting to write a gloriously verbose sentence about its “mouth-watering brioche bun, piled high with local veggies, grass-fed beef, and aged cheddar at a price that won’t break the bank,” this is a common copywriting error of laundry listing.
You can avoid overwhelming the reader by “bucketing” those benefits and writing to each one individually. For the “it’s piled high with stuff” bucket, one headline could be, “It’s been called jaw-dropping. Mostly ’cause there’s no other way to take a bite.”
For the “aged cheese” bucket? “Our aged cheddar knows how to melt. It learned from the glaciers.”
2. Write Everything, Then Keep Writing-Sure, neither of those headlines were particularly great; the first lines you come up with most likely won’t be. The important thing is that you wrote them down. Always write down every thought, no matter how bad, otherwise you might forget it once lunchtime comes around.
Some copywriters recommend writing 200+ headlines at a time, then sticking ’em all in a drawer (or tacking ’em to a wall: great visualization technique) and writing 200 more.
So that’s the basics, but where does the biting inspiration come from? That’s where those burgers really come in. When possible, it can be helpful to try the product you’re writing about to generate first-hand insight. If that means going to the burger joint and savoring some fresh Angus, so be it. Getting out of the office for fresh air isn’t a perk to overlook either.
Here are some more possible sources for inspiration. The first two will be recommended by just about any copywriter, while the last tickles my right brain in particular.
Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!
The go-to book for aspiring advertisers, Luke Sullivan’s Hey Whipple gives insight into just about every medium of copywriting, the ideation process, and how to begin your professional career.Oh, and it’s hilarious, too!
From portfolio school grads to seasoned industry veterans, moderncopywriter.com compiles great portfolios you can look to for inspiration and fresh perspectives.
Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer
You read that right. Everyone has an example of copy that really speaks to him or her, and this is mine. Though it might just be an exaggerated new product leaflet, the imaginative food descriptions in the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer reads like a travel brochure, packed with whimsy and unique diction.
Regardless of what gets your creative juices and juicy burger taglines flowing, the key takeaway is to keep an open mind and never give up. Inspiration is everywhere, and it takes a constantly scribbling pencil to catch it.