Want to get into copywriting for the ad industry? Your best bet is to apply for an entry-level job at a small ad agency, then work your way up. Granted, the process won’t be as easy as it sounds — a lot of things need to be considered, from your educational background to your previous work experience to your past writing output.
Since you probably don’t have much commissioned work writing actual copy, it’s hard to sell what you can do to prospective employers. That, of course, is where spec ads come in. Short for speculative advertisements, these mock creations are unofficial ads that you make for the benefit of showing concerned parties what you can do.
What To Write Spec Ads For
You can write spec ads for anything, from made up products to items currently on the shelves. For hypothetical products, make sure to use ones that, at least, resemble real-world goods. Far-out products, like consumer spaceships and tandem jetpacks, just don’t give prospective employers an idea about what you can do for their currently client roster.
A better idea is to write for real-world products. Even better is to do a rewrite of an existing print ad. That way, you can show employers what you would have done different to create a more effective advertisement. Going this route allows you to show the two copies side by side, illustrating how your changes could create for a better finished product.
As for formatting, you’re angling for a job as a copywriter so prospective employers will understand if all your spec ads are just typed-up notes on a sheet of paper. If you can pull off doing graphic layouts to make them look like the way they would in a magazine, consider it plus points — not necessary, but the presentation can only help. Make sure you know what you’re doing with the graphics, though. The last thing you want is a layout that ends up hurting your writing, instead of helping it.
Don’t Be Shy With Your Spec Ads
Beginners often get nervous when walking into a job application with nothing but spec ads in their portfolio. If you’re the same way, you shouldn’t. Spec ads are a widely-accepted and widely-used element in the advertising industry. Chances are, whoever’s interviewing you had to use them early on during their careers, too.
Plus, don’t think only newbies trying to break into advertising use spec ads — agencies use them as suggestions for clients, magazines use them to give advertisers ideas on how to position for their demographic and so on. Heck, check YouTube and you’ll find tons of video spec ads done by professional firms.