What Is Advertising Copy?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Advertising copy refers specifically to the text of an advertisement. This term may encompass the script of a television commercial, the voice over on a radio ad, the words in a direct mail flyer, or the full text of a newspaper ad. Writing effective advertising copy is a skill that can help a business attract new clients or entice existing customers to make a return visit. Some businesses choose to write their own advertising copy, but others may go through an advertising agency.

An advertising copy may include the voice over on a radio ad.
An advertising copy may include the voice over on a radio ad.

Writing different types of advertising copy may require different skills. In writing for television advertising, copywriters need to write dialogue or voice-over text as well as create a visual story though action. Radio ad copywriters need to be strongly concerned with word choice, to ensure that the finished product can grab a listener's attention. In writing print advertising, an writer must be able to create strongly worded text that looks clean and easy to read on the page.

Learning to write effective advertising copy is a difficult job that can take years to truly master. There are dozens of different theories on how to make advertising text appealing to customers. Some of the most common strategies include writing for a targeted demographic, making a product or business appear unique from competitors, and starting out with an attention-grabbing headline. For radio and television advertising, another important skill is the ability to write ads that suit the available budget, since chances are a local hardware store won't be able to afford 16 elephants and an aircraft carrier.

When advertising copy is effective, it can help draw new business to an existing company. By creating ads that attract attention, clearly explain goals or products, and connect with consumers' emotions, businesses may be able to tie enjoyment of the advertisement to increased business for the company. Truly iconic advertisements can become somewhat legendary, even helping to renew the prospects of a fading business.

While some businesses choose to write their own advertising copy, an entire advertising industry exists to help companies take their advertising to a more professional level. Not only will advertising companies write copy, they may do extensive research on targeted demographics, competitors, and the current market perception of a business in order to create the most effective ad. Ad copy may go through dozens of drafts, and be tested with focus groups and market analysts for effectiveness before being released to the public. Though expensive, choosing to hire a firm to create advertising can result in a more effective ad campaign.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


@StarJo – I kind of feel the same way about television ads. Both repetition and high volume can be annoying.

I think that many car dealership ads focus too much on being loud and crazy. They should pay more attention to their ad copy itself than the volume with which it is delivered.

Many people get up and do things during commercials, but they can still hear the TV. If an advertising message is delivered solidly with good copy, it can still be effective. If someone comes on screen yelling and it suddenly becomes louder than whatever I was watching, I mute it quickly.


I have run radio ads before, and I always make sure that the person reading the ad has an audible voice and clearly pronounces every word. I live in the South, and I have heard some radio announcers with a strong accent who are hard to understand, and I don't want them reading my ads aloud.

One other thing I try to avoid is repetition of words. Nothing annoys me more than those radio ads that repeat every sentence to drum it into your head. I can't imagine anyone liking how that sounds.

I feel like if the radio advertising copy is strong enough to begin with, you will have no need of repetition. As long as your message is clear and to the point, the ad should be successful.


As a graphic designer, I have a good advertising tip for businesses out there. Don't try to cram too many words into your ad. People will not want to read it all, and they will likely ignore it altogether.

The most effective ad copy is that which focuses on key points. Vary up the size of the text to make it easier to read, and keep it simple. Most people only browse over the ads, anyway, so the more on point and basic yours is, the more effective it will be.

I have had to design ads before that included far too much copy. The owner of a local furniture store wanted me to include thirteen items, along with the original price and sale price of each, in one print ad. The result was a textual overload that even she didn't like.


I am an advertising sales representative at a newspaper, and I often have to come up with copy for ads. Many times, the customer will come to me not knowing exactly how to best phrase what he wants to say.

Since I have a degree in marketing, I am able to help him word things in a way that will sell his product or service to the customer. He gives me the basic information, like the time and date of the sale he has planned, and I come up with a headline and supporting text that makes it sound alluring.

From there, it is up to the graphic designer to make it all come together visually. She will make the most important words bigger and bolder and arrange all the text in an attractive layout, along with the images.

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