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Write Right

If you have creativity and a flair for the language, consider becoming a copywriter, suggests Adit Mathai.

education Updated: May 23, 2012 11:35 IST
Adit Mathai

Abhishek Deshwal is a connoisseur of the good things of life. Good music, food, clothes — he loves them all. And how does he support this lifestyle? By doing what he loves the most — his job.

Deshwal is a copywriter. “As a child, I used to sit at the table in my room and conjure up ideas and concepts. All I wanted to do was sit, think and write. It was then that I realised I had a flair for this field,” he says.

Copywriting is the craft of writing words to market or promote a person, product, business or idea.

Copywriting must not be confused with copy editing, which refers to rewriting, editing, correcting spellings, grammar and punctuation to ensure that the text is consistent, factual and readable.

Things, however, didn’t start easy for Deshwal. As with every other middle-class adolescent, parental pressure was high on him. His family would have preferred to see him become a doctor, engineer or lawyer. However, mid-way through his MBA programme, he realised he was not cut out for the corporate world and decided to switch to advertising, joining the Delhi School of Communication for a post-graduate diploma.

Jobs with well-known advertising agencies followed. He did a 10-month stint with Draftfcb, following it up with a 15-month stint with Saatchi & Saatchi. From there, he switched to the Mumbai-based Contract Advertising.

Though a commerce graduate, Deshwal has always been interested in English literature and history. Being a movie buff, he says, also helps him do his creativity-powered work.

Deshwal recommends that all aspiring copywriters should watch as many movies as possible, read whatever good literature they can lay their hands on and be well-versed with all forms of art, as copywriting has a strong positive correlation with fine arts and literature. “Do not limit yourself to popular culture. It is very important to think out of the box. Remember, the target audience out there constantly wants something fresh and innovative each time they see an ad,” he says.

Mahendra Kakkar, a faculty member at Mumbai’s Wigan and Leigh College, who teaches advertising, has some words of advice: The one essential fact for copywriters to keep in mind is that “a lot of advertising is psychological and requires lateral thinking by the copywriter”.

What’s it about?
Copywriting is a sub-branch of advertising that uses words to promote a product, person, enterprise, concept or opinion.

It is meant to influence the intended target audience to subscribe to a product, service or concept. It uses a variety of promotional media such as television, radio, the Internet, press releases, commercial scripts, white papers, direct mail, tag lines, catalogues, brochures and billboards.

Copywriters can work on the web, help in search engine optimisation (developing key words to increase traffic to a site). They can freelance. Those good with promotional material can work as marketing, sales, PR, print and broadcast copywriters.

Copywriters can work in advertising agencies, public relations firms, with broadcasters, etc, in stores, and the print media

Clock work
8.30 am: Reach office
8.30 am: Brainstorming sessions
11 am: Get ideas vetted by boss
1 pm: Break for lunch
2 pm: Partner the art director for finalising concepts of ads for radio, TV and print
9 pm: Leave office for home

The payoff
Not very good at first, but can grow fast. A trainee in an advertising agency starts on a stipend of around Rs 8,000 per month. After a probation period of six months, trainees are promoted to the post of copywriter. Initially, a copywriter earns in the region of
Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000. At the middle level, the remuneration depends upon your track record and the amount of recognition you get in the industry. Typically, middle-level copywriters earn Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000, and senior copywriters earn in the region of Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh a month.

Excellent language and communication skills, good editing and proofreading skills
Ability to write concise, attention-grabbing copy
Creativity, visualisation skills
Basic grasp of layout and design and computer knowledge
Ability to research and analyse the research

How do I get there?
You need a BA or MA degree or a diploma in journalism, mass communication,advertising, design or marketing. If you can’t acquire a formal degree, look at certifications or non-degree courses offered by many colleges that teach basic copywriting. Take courses that focus on writing skills, advertising concepts and graphic design. Several institutes offer both UG and PG programmes in this field and have specific entrance tests

This field requires more natural talent, creativity and an ability to write, which is honed during job training. The most common method of entry into copywritng jobs is by compiling an excellent ‘book’ or portfolio highlighting the ads created and the written work done as a student or an intern with an agency.

Institutes & urls
National Institute of Advertising, New Delhi

Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad

Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi

Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication, Pune

Xaviers Institute of Communication, Mumbai

School of Broadcasting and Communication, Mumbai

The Institute of Copywriting, Somerset, UK

The Learning Institute, UK(Distance Education)

Pros & Cons
n Stimulating work
n Get to meet many people
n Informal working environment
n A very high-pressure profession with long hours as there are tight deadlines
n Constant need to come up with creative copy
n Can be tough as creative bosses often tear up the copy

It makes you versatile
The demand for copywriters is increasing as companies realise how vital communications are today

Is the field of copywriting getting bigger in this country?
With companies in almost every business sector becoming increasingly communication-savvy, the field of copywriting is doing better than ever before and promises to do even better in the future.

What is the scope for a copywriter in India?
Copywriting is a promising career. The skill set of a copywriter makes him eligible for employment in the strategic planning function at advertising agencies, corporate communications departments of big corporate houses and in brand management. There have been well-known cases of copywriters becoming film script writers, film makers and even novelists.

What kind of demands does the profession place on you?
Today’s copywriter has to very quickly grasp the business problem at hand, constantly push himself to come up with fresh, clutter-cutting ideas that work for clients, and develop large-scale integrated campaigns working within deadlines that are often extremely, well, pressing.

How competitive is the field?
It is difficult to say how many people take up
copywriting as a profession every year or every two years... But yes, it is definitely a very competitive field for the youth

Career prospects for a freelance copywriter as opposed to one in an agency?
Career prospects for a freelance copywriter are as good as, or perhaps even better than those of one employed in an advertising agency.

Interviewed by Adit Mathai