7 Basic Tips for Writing Ad Copy

Published July 31, 2023

Words are everywhere. Whether you tackle copywriting tasks in-house, outsource copywriting to a copywriter or an ad agency, or both – copywriting is a need that is ingrained in our society with constant messaging and communications.

Over the past 25 years in the advertising industry, I’ve written countless amounts of copy for a variety of ads and promotions. This includes everything from brand taglines to live MLS in-game announcements to ad copy for outdoor, print and digital display ads, direct mail, radio and TV commercials, highly produced branding videos, live news reports, google ads, banners, landing pages, social media, email marketing and more.

My hope in sharing these copywriting tips with you is that you’ll be able to spearhead crafting stronger copy that conveys your message more effectively – with less frustration – all the while adding to your brand’s value and making your job as a marketer more impactful.

Tip 1: Be realistic

Be realistic with the amount of time it will take you to get the copy written.

“I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.”
– Mark Twain

Crafting copy can be a time consuming process, and shorter ads can take longer to write. This may seem counterintuitive, but writing less takes discipline, thoughtfulness and craft.

Give yourself time to let the copy rest. Come back to it in an hour or the next day. Does it still hold up? If not, it’s time to refine.

I once got pushback from a soccer team corporate sponsor for charging the same amount of money for writing a :05 versus writing a :15 for in-stadium announcements. What I explained to him was that it took just as much time to condense the :15 into five seconds and have it make sense and be effective. He paid the bill!

Tip 2: Be a reader

Those who read are better writers. Read. Read a large variety of material, from song lyrics to technical articles, from novels to self help books – it will help get you out of ruts, challenge your thinking and shape your writing.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
– Stephen King

Reading regularly will expand your vocabulary, improve your grammar and increase the level of creativity you apply in how you use words. Reading sparks your imagination, which helps with problem solving, empathy, curiosity and more – all qualities that make for better writers.

Tip 3: Research your topic

Being observant and performing research will help you define your copywriting direction. Are there similar brands already running ads in your market? Getting a feel for what’s already out there can help you not only see what the competition is doing, but also provide opportunities to differentiate your brand in that space. Explore what’s happening outside of your market as well. Modifying an existing campaign idea to fit your target psychographics and demographics can make the concept fresh once again.

Understanding the subject will inform your writing, allowing you to dip into nuance or allude to your audience’s hot buttons with subtlety or humor. Lean on your thesaurus for synonyms and a dictionary to learn more about keywords that apply to your topic. I often use a blank Word document, right click on the word I want to explore and then use the synonyms feature in the drop down to get started. Sometimes I have two documents open, one for what I call “working copy” and the other for refined copy. This gives me a scratch pad and a spot to store notes as I work through the copywriting concept.

Tip 4: Read it out loud

Reading your copy out loud will help you see where it snags. If it’s easy to read, then it’s easy to internalize. Working this out in advance of sending to a voiceover talent will save you a lot of headache, time and money.

Listen for phrases with tough-to-string-together words, weird pauses, or catches in the copy that distract from your main point. It will also help you uncover redundancies in your writing. This applies to spoken word AND written word.

In one instance, I was writing copy for a radio ad, and to refer to the fall season, I used the word “crisp.” But, the following word was “three months” so after reading it out loud, and finding that I was stumbling over “crisp three months”, I changed it to “crisp 90 days” – that worked and didn’t compromise the quality of the creative.

Tip 5: Use a stopwatch

If you are working on something timed, like a script for audio or video, don’t assume that because you can read the copy inside your head within the bounds of allotted time that it will fit once read aloud. There is a stopwatch feature on most smartphones in the clock app. Use it to time your copy as you read it out loud.

Don’t forget to leave room for the creative outside of the copy. Speak sound effects and music intros out loud to give them space as you continue to fine tune your creative. For video ad copy, you don’t need to say everything that you see.

Use copy wisely to allow space for the visuals to communicate much more than words can. Less copy is more here, and be sure to leave room for any intro or outro branding visuals or disclaimers if those are being used.

With video, you can often use a “bug” on the screen the entire time the spot is running to convey the brands logo, website or phone number, which can provide more audio space for you to use copy for a call-to-action or branding statement.

For longer pieces, printing out what you’ve written, or placing copy next to visuals in a spreadsheet or storyboarding tool can help you pull the right amount of copy together to get your point across.

The end goal is to use the stopwatch to ensure that your creative approach fits within the allotted space. If it’s rushed or conversely there is too much dead air, you could lose your audience.

Tip 6: Ask for constructive feedback

Having a second set of eyes read your advertising copy will help ensure that the message you are trying to convey is actually getting across.

Ask for constructive feedback. If all you hear is “that sounds great” or “looks fine to me”, don’t jump immediately to patting yourself on the back, ask for another opinion. In the movie Ford vs. Ferrari, Caroll Shelby becomes very frustrated with a test driver that basically says the car is perfect. As the designer of the car, you’d think that Mr. Shelby would be ecstatic. Instead, he’s annoyed because his previous test driver would provide helpful feedback, even the tiniest of things, which consistently made his cars better.

In an effort to produce effective creative, make it clear that you want to improve upon what is already written and that you value the opinions of others. Additionally, it is worthwhile to communicate that you are looking for suggestions, not approval.

Tip 7: Carve out a space that inspires

Listening to music or having conversations going in the background can be difficult for concentrating while writing copy. Your environment should lend itself to the creative process.

Put yourself in a place that inspires you. This could be outside in your garden, or onsite at the client’s place of business. Once I needed to write copy for a credit union located in the Pacific Northwest. They loved to include whimsey in their creative – think Sasquatch wearing buffalo plaid. So one day, I drove through their drive through just to experience it, then thought about what it would be like for Sasquatch to do the same. That inspired some whimsical copywriting. Changing your environment may imbibe your copy with nuances you’d otherwise miss.

Don’t hesitate to switch things up and put yourself in a spot that will refresh your perspective and help inspire new ideas – even if it’s just going for a walk, it can help.


Be realistic, read, research, voice your own copy, use a stopwatch, ask for feedback and find some inspiring space. Keeping these tips in mind will enable you to craft better ad copy in-house while also providing you with a more skilled review of any copywriting that you may outsource.

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