Copywriting: Demand explosion for copywriters

An endangered species which has the knack of conjuring up the arresting headline or telling phrase that prompts mass purchase decisions, advertising copywriters are in great demand

Following the economic liberalisation in 1991 which catapulted the hitherto moribund Indian economy into an eight percent per annum growth orbit, and the entry of a cornucopia of new goods and services into the great Indian bazaar, the advertising industry has grown by leaps and bounds. According to Association of Advertising Agencies of India (AAAI), the aggregate media spend of Indian industry increased from Rs.4,700 crore in 1996 to Rs.12,000 crore in 2006, while the number of people employed in the ad business rose from 3,000 to 5,000 during the past decade.

Consequently the demand for advertising professionals is booming. Particularly for copywriters, an endangered species which has the knack of conjuring up the arresting headline and/or the telling phrase that prompts mass purchase decisions. Simply stated, within ad agencies, copywriters express the agency’s creativity in words or ideas, to sell clients’ products/brands.

Indeed every ad agency’s creative process begins with the copywriter, who has to write the ‘copy’ to promote a product or service. Depending on the medium, the copywriter conjures up tag lines to impact a product, service, or brand promoted in print, radio, TV, or a direct mailer, upon potential customers.

Typically, ad copywriters work as members of a team managed by the creative director. They produce written words or ‘copy’, while an art director supplements copy with visual images. The challenge before the team is to make advertising fresh and appealing to persuade customers to purchase a product, service, or brand.

Specific education qualifications are not required for copywriters. But since entry into advertising is fiercely competitive, most ad agencies prefer a college degree in arts and humanities or mass communication, and all of them administer a copy test to applicants.

Although there are over 1,000 ad agencies countrywide, there are hardly any courses that specifically train copywriters. The Mudra Institute of Communication (, Ahmedabad, offers a six-month certificate programme in crafting advertising. Postgrad programmes in mass communication and advertising which are also useful for aspiring copywriters, are offered by the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi; Xavier’s Institute of Communication, Mumbai; branches of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan; and the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. Among the reputed undergraduate courses available are bachelor of mass media and mass communication offered by Indraprastha College, Delhi University, and Sophia College, Mumbai. Moreover most polytechnics offer diploma courses in advertising.

With a quantum leap in the number of young graduates armed with interesting portfolios knocking at the doors of advertising agencies, there’s been a corresponding explosion in the demand for copywriters. Starting salaries vary according to the size of the agency, somewhere between Rs.3,000–8,000 for trainees. Although start-up pay is low, it just takes a year or two before a promising copywriter starts earning big bucks depending on individual creativity, the size of the agency, and its volume of business.

“As a copywriter, the chances are that you will be doing something different every day. One day you could be working on a TV commercial and the next you could be writing copy for a radio jingle or print ad. The work is varied, challenging, and stimulating, and requires creative energy, imagination, ability to deliver under pressing deadlines, and a keen interest in people and their lives,” says 20-something Malini Chaudhury, senior copywriter with Ambience Publicis, a top-rated ad agency where she contributes copy matter for leading brands like Lakme, Be, Nerolac, Planet M, Marico, and Vicks.

A mass media and communications graduate of Indraprastha College, Delhi, Chaudhury started her career in advertising with J.Walter Thompson as an intern while still in college. Triton, Mumbai, gave her a first break where she received hands-on experience, helping with advertising copy for several brands. After short stints in Percept Advertising and Euro RSCG, in early 2004 she signed up with Ambience Publicis as senior copywriter.

All set to go places within the advertising fraternity, Chaudhury recommends the copywriter’s profession to all youngsters with a feel for words and word play. “Pay packages are generous and the deal you negotiate will depend on your portfolio, work experience, and the size of the agency. For young people with a creative bent and vocabularies to match, it’s a heady career option in the advertising industry, which is on a roll,” she says.