So you want to be a radio advertising copywriter?

Really!? Don’t do it.

What? You still want to take this up as a career? Writing radio commercials? OK, I’m guessing you’re probably dreaming of writing a Movie, a Sitcom, a novel or a children’s book. That’s what many of the radio copywriters I know have gone on to do, or were using their radio advertising job to give them income while they did this. Some of them very successfully.

I don’t have the talent in any of those areas…. But I can give you one or two tips to getting a job as a radio advertising copywriter at a radio station. (that being the best place to sharpen your skills), because I have interviewed dozens of candidates and sifted through thousands of CVs.) I’m not placed to tell you how to get a job at an Advertising Agency….

1. Surprise me with your application letter. I have seen so many boring and dull application letters from people trying to get jobs in radio stations. My first application letter was in the form of a rejection letter. It got noticed! Tell me about yourself and why you would be great at the job. It doesn’t HAVE to be a letter. Surprise me to get noticed.

2. Surprise me with your CV… in the interests section tell me more about yourself, interests, achievements and not just “socializing” which to me says the limit to your life is going out and partying on a Friday and sleeping it off over the weekend.

3. Even if you DO want to be a radio presenter, don’t say so in the interview. I want people who want to be copywriters… not people who want to “get in to radio”.

Writing Tests

Many stations do a writing test… they give you a brief and see what you can come up with. If this is your first job you’re not expected to know everything there is to know about writing ads. But try and think a bit more “out of the box”. We used to have a brief for blood donation, and the number of people who thought it was a good idea to use Dracula as the voice would amaze you. Not creative, a bad idea and a clichéd execution. Have fun with them but be ready to defend every word written.

The right amount of confidence

Defend your ideas to a point! Your interviewer will want to see you know why you’ve written something the way you have and that you can give the reasons clearly.

If it’s a fair point, then accept it. Most stations are looking for copywriters who can accept criticism. If you can’t take your scripts being messed with, altered, rewritten and pulled to pieces by someone who has never written a radio commercial in his life but because he’s been selling used cars of waste ground for 6 month he thinks he’s a marketing guru… (Oops…. Did that sound bitter? I’ve got NO IDEA where that came from!) then this job is not for you!
If you feel there’s a reason why it shouldn’t be changed, explain why… cool and clearly.
If there’s a tip I can give you in an interview it’s be interested. Ask questions about the job, how it works, the relationship with sales, how often you go on sales calls, what on the job training they offer etc. But as for the salary, be warned that most stations don’t pay big salaries for copywriters. What you need to do is make yourself invaluable to the station… so if you left they would be in deep trouble. Then they will throw money at you to stay.

Getting the Interview

How do you get an interview?

• Find out where jobs are advertised (for example in the UK Mediauk.com and radiotoday.co.uk are good places to begin looking)

• Be creative, but don’t be a pain in the neck.

• Identify the people who are in charge… those responsible for hiring. (And if they ARE hiring)
• Make your CV interesting.

• Make your Application letter creative.

• Keep at it! For every 15 applications you send you may only get 1 response. Be resilient!

• Look for the people you want to work for! Who are the big names, the people with a reputation that you would learn from quickly? I was so fortunate to work under and alongside the likes of Dan McCurdy, Mike Bersin, Paul Renhard, Graham Elliott, Roger Harvey, Ali Booth, Cindy George & Paul Carter very early in my career. And later on with people like Tracey Reed and Tim Nice and great copywriters and producers at GWR. All people that I learned a great deal from… either from conversation or looking at the ways they handled a brief and presented to a client.

Hope that gives you a start!

A copywriter

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3 thoughts on “So you want to be a radio advertising copywriter?

  1. Stick Mark Gregory on that list of big names for me. He might have called me a cocky little shit every day but I still reckon I learned from one of the best. Don’t tell the old man I said that. Good blogs by the way. I don’t always agree but I usually can’t be bothered to say.

    • Unfortunately I never got to work with Mark Gregory…. even though he offered me my first full time paid for gig back in about 1989.
      I would love you to disagree and say it! It makes me better at my job to get a different perspective, and even if I don’t agree back again, it can help me to think about WHY I think about it a certain way… if that makes sense :-).

  2. This is lovely. I like the part of being Invaluable, it makes them go wild.

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