Skip to content

Advertising copy

Writing advertising copy is a key creative and communication skill. It can attract, influence and persuade your target audience to help you meet your business objectives. Great advertising copy comes from a combination of writing, marketing and market research skills. Read our guide to find out why context, creation and crafting are important and learn how you can improve the advertising copy of your business. 

Advertising Copy

How this guide raises your game.

1. Where advertising copy fits into the advertising development process.

2. The key steps of the advertising copywriting process.

3. Learn how best to create, edit and integrate your advertising copy.

Advertising is part of your marketing plan and brand activation and has three key benefits for your business.

Advertising can make your target audience aware of your brand. It can influence them to consider and engage with your brand. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, it can persuade them to buy your brand. 

The words and writing that sit behind the advertising are a big part of this awareness, influence and persuasion process. Writing for advertising purposes even has its own name – copywriting.

Advertising copywriting is a key creative and communication skill to grow your brand and sales. 

In this guide, we cover the three key steps that sit behind the process of creating great advertising copy. These are context, creation and crafting.

But first, let’s look at where advertising copy sits within the advertising development process.

Blank Billboard seen from the ground against a clear cloudy sky

Ready to test your knowledge?

What’s your starting level of knowledge about advertising copy?

Take the 2 minute, 5 question Three-brains advertising copy quiz and see how much you know about advertising copy already.

The advertising development process

As per our guide on how to advertise, great advertising doesn’t just happen.

It’s part of a process, a series of steps between the client (you) and the agency.

That process normally starts with the marketing or brand objective. The business owner identifies that advertising can help meet the objective. 

The job to be done by the advertising is usually one or more of these three things :-

  • It’s to make more people aware of the brand. 
  • It’s to influence more people to engage with the brand.
  • And finally, it’s to persuade more people to buy the brand. 
The advertising development process - a guide on how to advertise successfully

Some bigger campaigns might try to cover all three areas, but usually the business owner would identity one single objective over the others. This helps to prioritise and focus in on the objective.

Each of these jobs to be done relates back to the brand choice funnel. They help to define the marketing objectives for the advertising. (See our guide to brand identity for more on the brand choice funnel).

In this case, awareness is whether customers have heard of your brand. Consideration measures how likely customers are to buy your brand. And trial (or sometimes conversion) measures whether they actually make a purchase. 

These objectives become the goals and measures for the advertising. They are the change in attitude or behaviour you will see in the target audience because of the advertising. And they are how you will measure how successful the advertising is.

The brand choice funnel - trust - aware - consider - trial - loyalty - repeat purchase

Sales copy

Sales copy to drive trial and purchase is an extension of advertising copy. It comes with its own specific additional considerations. While we’ll refer to it in this guide within the overall process, we’ve written a whole separate guide to writing sales copy. For this guide, we’ll mainly focus on awareness and consideration advertising copywriting.

It’s important that whoever writes the advertising copy has a solid grasp of marketing concepts like the brand choice funnel and what marketing objectives actually mean. They need to understand the psychology and mindset of the target audience at each stage of the funnel for example. This knowledge helps create advertising copy that’s more relevant to the target audience needs at their specific stage in the journey. 

So, the next key step in the advertising copy process is to identify who’ll actually write the advertising copy. 

Identify who'll write the advertising copy

In small businesses, the owner might feel confident enough to handle their own copy. On product pages or on social media for example. (See our article on quick and easy copywriting for more on in-house or freelance copywriting).

But, in most cases, you use an agency. When you ask someone else to write the copy, you need to write a brief. That brief outlines what copy you need as part of the overall advertising project.

The copywriting process starts when the copywriter gets the brief. Advertising agencies are normally responsibile for copywriting, as well producing other creative elements like photography, video content and graphic design.

Man writing blue shirt

The advertising agency will respond to the brief with a proposal. This will answer the questions and challenges from the brief and will include the overall advertising idea.

The agency will include a summary of creative requirements, including copywriting, and their role in delivering the advertising idea in the proposal. We cover more on what’s in an advertising proposal and advertising idea in our separate guide to the advertising process.

From an advertising copy point of view, the proposal will detail who’ll write the copy, and how it fits in to the advertising idea. And it’ll detail how much written copy is required and where it’ll be used.

Once the client approves the advertising idea, the agency will then create, edit and build in advertising copy through the production, editing and review process. They do this by following the advertising copywriting process.

Advertising copywriting process

Copywriting within advertising doesn’t and shouldn’t operate in isolation.

It’s important that whoever creates the advertising copy, understands how it will fit with the other creative skills needed to produce the final advert. Skills like photography, video content and graphic design for example.

But beyond those creative skills, advertising copy also has to be built on a solid understanding of key marketing principles like market research and brand identity.

It’s important to understand the target audience and its needs, wants, and emotions. It’s important to understand the brand development process.

Advertising copy writing process

And one last thing.

While it has to weave together these complex and multiple skills from creativity and marketing, advertising copy also needs to be simple, concise and well-written.

Quite a challenge, then.

To try and keep it as simple as possible, we like to break down the advertising copywriting process itself into three key steps. Those are context, creation and crafting.


The first stage of the advertising copy process is context.

Context comes from the communication brief

This is when the brand owner details the requirements for the advertising or other creative job to be done. It should give all the relevant context to produce the advertising. 

Filling in key areas of context in the communication brief sets the direction for the advertising copy, and lets the copywriter know what’s needed. The key are :-

  • brand, marketing and communication objectives,
  • rationale and
  • project scope. 
Marketing Communication brief - blank template


Firstly, the brief summarises the brand identity. The focus is on the vision, essence, values and personality of the brand.

What is it the brand stands for that makes it uniquely different? What makes it stand out from its competitors? How would it think, feel and act if it were an actual person?

As per our guide to business writing, these core elements  define the brand tone of voice. Your tone of voice is how your brand “talks” to consumers.

Your writing for advertising copy will be different if your brand is serious and professional, compared to if it’s light-hearted and funny. It’ll be different if your aim is to sound like a knowledgeable expert, or you want to appear warm and caring. 

Tone of voice is an important consideration in advertising copy. The words in your advertising need to be consistent with the brand identity. The tone of voice needs to reflect the essence, values and personality of the brand. 

This part of the brief sets the brand guidelines for the style of the advertising copy. These guidelines should already be familiar to the agency if they’ve worked with your brand identity guidelines before.

The next stage of the brief then covers the business, marketing and communication objectives. These are important for the advertising copy as they set the end goal for the writing. You can’t make impactful advertising if you don’t know what impact you need to have.


These objectives should also make clear who the target audience is. They should make clear what the desired change in attitude or behaviour is. These are both hugely important for the creation of great advertising copy. They narrow the choices that the writer has. They focus in on a specific group of people and a specific change, so that the advertising copy becomes sharper and more relevant.

When consumers read advertising copy, they are more likely to notice and engage with copy that sounds like it is talking directly to them, rather than to “everyone”. When you know the specific target audience for the advertising copy, it’s much easier to write this more targeted type of writing.

Customer personas which you develop as part of the customer experience process can be very helpful to copywriters.

Segment-based information about the target audience gives the copywriter a picture of who to write for.

There’s an opportunity to pull in any key information or insights you’ve gathered from your market research. Or even to carry out some specific market research before the advertising process starts.

Dig around to find out more about the audience. Look at their needs and wants. What benefit most motivates them? What’s their frame of mind likely to be when they read the advertising copy? 

Customer Experience Personal Template Blank.001

When you can answer these types of questions, you are more likely to write advertising copy that is relevant and meaningful to the target audience. At all costs, try to avoid writing that appeal to everyone. Because this will come across as bland and generic, and appeal to no-one.


The final context area to understand is then the media element of the communication brief.

Media planning covers where and when the target audience will read, see or hear the advertising copy. And this media placement will influence what you say and how you say it.  

This may be from a purely practical limitation on the space or time available. There may only be so much space on the page or screen. There may be only a certain length of video that the media plan allows.

These will limit the number of words you can use in the advertising copy. 

Man calmly reading a newspaper while it's on fire

But the time of day or day of the week that the consumer will see the advertising can influence the advertising copy. And it could obviously be influenced by whether the media is traditional or digital, such as whether you want to make the copy interactive. The copy is also affected by the choice of broadcast message to many or a monocast messages to specific consumers.

For example, a roadside billboard advert will need different copy from a social media advert seen on a mobile phone. An advert seen in a print magazine will need different advertising copy from an advert the consumer sees on a display banner. 

These brand, audience and media considerations are important to define up front in the copywriting process. Before the writing of advertising copy begins, it’s important to make sure that some thought has gone into what you need the advertising copy to do, who the target audience is. and where they will see the advertising copy. 


So now the context is step, the next stage is to create the writing. This normally goes through a few steps of its own.

First, you generate a number of ideas based on the stimulus given in the brief. Then you take these ideas, and organise and structure them to more closely fit the needs of the brief. And finally, you then edit the advertising copy to get it close to the final recommendation.  

Idea generation

Based on the context of brand, audience and media, the first stage to create advertising copy is to generate ideas.

This may involve brainstorming and creative thinking where the writer aims to generate a list of potential ways to meet the copywriting needs of the brief. 

This can be done alone by the copywriter or with the support of the wider creative team. Creative teams in agencies often work together on ideas and pull in multiple creative skills. 

In brainstorming, the aim is to generate a large number of ideas which you then narrow down and refine later. There’s no filtering or criticism of these early ideas. The aim is to be exploratory, experimental and deliberately provocative.

hand holding a black marker over a blank paper page with other marker pens and ruler

These ideas can come from many sources :-

  • The brief obviously with its identification of the brand identity and communication challenges. 
  • From market research or customer personas. You can use these to generate insights or inspiration about what you might need to write to persuade or influence the target audience.
  • You might look at what competitors say. See how you can stand-out and differentiate the message.
  • The copywriter might look at advertising from other categories or even other countries to look for examples that they can adapt to the particular writing challenge. 

At this stage, you may end up with many ideas for what you say, how you say it and different options for how it will work. Twenty to thirty ideas would be a normal range at this point. When you have those big ideas, that’s when you then need to move on to decide how to structure the advertising copy.


The media plan will define the ‘limits’ of the advertising copy from a space and time point of view.  Page dimensions, screen time and also the channel format will limit the space for your advert. 

As per our guide to business writing, you need a strong beginning, end and middle so your story structure is clear. 

The beginning - Headline

The beginning of the advertising copy is the first thing the target audience sees. It needs to grab attention.

The headline should link back to your understanding of the target audience.

What is it they need or want that is likely to capture their attention? If the headline isn’t immediately and clearly relevant to your audience, they’ll ignore it.

Most headlines fall into one of two areas.

They can lead with a fact or a piece of information that the consumer didn’t know. So, for example, a number, a statistic or a claim.

Outdoor billboard with writing that says this will drive $1m in sales - probably

That’s why you see so many headlines online that start with “10 things you didn’t know about …”. Finding out something new is a strong motivator to read beyond the headline. 

Alternatively, headlines that tap more into a recognisable emotion, insight or behaviour can also capture the attention. When it’s relevant to the audience and they recognise the message as something that they think, feel or do, they’ll want to read more. That’s why there are so many “Why you’re feeling tired / sad / angry during the Covid-19 pandemic …” headlines for example. These types of adverts make people think “oh, that sounds like me”.

The biggest challenge with writing headlines is it can feel you need the headline to do many jobs at the same time. So, you write the headline “long” to do all these jobs. But audiences are less likely to read long headlines. The headline needs to be short, to the point and ‘hook’ people to find out more. 

Advertising experts like David Ogilvy argued that the headline does 80% of the work in an advertisement. So, there’s a lot of decision making that needs to be done to narrow down the focus of the headline. You often need to leave things out. Or move them elsewhere to allow the headline to stand alone and do its job.

Example headlines - Pizza Shop

So, look at this very simple example of three very different headlines you might use for our fictitious pizza company in Sydney. 

Where the job to be done is awareness, we need to make clear who the brand is and what it does. And we need to capture attention. So we, use the P-P-P alliteration of Perfect Pineapple Pizza to state what the brand does and to capture attention. 

And we follow it up with a humous pun on pizza / piece of, as in get a pizza / piece of the action to help make it distinctive. 

Incidentally, if you ever need to explain humour in an advert, then you probably shouldn’t use that humour. Humour needs to work without explanation.

Advertising copy writing example - pizza company headlines

Writing copy to influence

But for advertising that’s more focussed on consideration, we assume the consumer already knows who the Pizza company is. So you don’t need to do that in this case. This copy might sit on an advert with a logo or a picture of the business for example. So, this headline example instead focuses on influence, by tapping into social proof.

Social proof is a concept shared in Robert Cialdini’s book Influence. (See also our article on how to use behavioural science in marketing).

It suggests that people in general don’t like to be the first to try something new. But if they see that other people have already tried something, they are more likely to try that thing themselves.

So, when the the advertising copywriting aim is to persuade, you might refer to winning a popularity vote. Or sharing reviews or customer comments. It seems much more credible when someone else speaks on your behalf. So our #1 pizza vote is an example of social proof to influence the consumer.

Finally, if the job is to drive a specific trial or sale, you can focus in on a sales promotion or offer. In this example, we give the offer (buy one, get one free) but make it clear that the offer only applies for a limited time. This pulls in another technique from Cialdini’s book, that of scarcity.

When people believe that there is less of something available, or that something is only available for a certain amount of time, they are more likely to buy it. This is because they don’t want to miss out. We cover much more on this common sales copy technique in our guide to writing sales copy.

The end - Call to action

The call to action is the last thing the customer reads in the advertising copy. You need to tell them what to do next. 

Click on a link. Visit a website. Go to a store. Call a number. Send an email. 

This is important from the point of view of the advert delivering against your business and marketing objective. If the advertising leaves the customer unclear of what’s next, they won’t do anything. And you’ll miss your objectives. 

It’s easy to get distracted in the advertising development process. Especially, if the agency comes up with clever or innovative ideas that start to go a bit more ‘arty’.

But remember, advertising is not art. It may contain elements of “art”, but the primary goal of advertising is to deliver against a commercial objective. There’s a cost to all advertising and advertising needs to drive enough sales to pay that cost.

Advertising with a clear call to action helps to drive sales. It brings in more consumers at the start of the brand choice funnel. Or it uses sales copy to convince them at the trial stage. It helps to deliver return on investment. 

Advertising with unclear or no call to action is a waste of money.

Person holding 6 hundred dollar bills in front of them which have been set alight

The middle - the key points of the message

The “middle” of your advertising copy is then what happens between you capturing attention with the headline, and you telling people what you want them to do with the call to action.

You need to give some thought to what goes in the middle.

How long is the message?

The media plan will obviously guide how much you can actually say here. There might be limits on the space on the page or screen. There might be limits on time if the words are used as a script in video content. You might even only have room for the headline and call to action.

What and how much advertising copy you need to go between the headline and the call to action very much depends on the context of the audience, brand and media.

In general, audiences are more likely to notice and read shorter messages in advertising copy. Less is usually more, when it comes to advertising copy.

It may be that you have one single message you want to hammer home, so very little is needed between the headline and the call to action. This simple approach can be very effective, especially if the aim is around awareness.

But it’s by no means always the case.

It may also be that you need to tell a longer story to drive consideration. In this case, you need to pull in lessons from storytelling such as the story arc which can help give structure to the message.

Explain why the message matters

Whatever your limits though, the most important part of the “middle” is to write and act as if you were having a conversation directly with the target consumer. Imagine you are talking to them face to face.

This is where you can explain directly “why” the consumer should believe what you say. And “why” it should matter to them. Refer back to the positioning including the key benefits, the reason why and reason to believe. 

Consider whether you need to cover functional benefits. emotional benefits or a combination of both.

This will depend on the type of product or service and how engaged the customer is likely to be. 

Which benefits will matter most to customers? How will these benefits make the life of customers easier or better?

As a general rule of thumb, emotional benefits tend to create deeper, stronger, more motivating connections in the minds of consumers.

But obviously, in some categories where the product is low value and functional, this can be hard to do.

Brand benefit ladder - four key levels of benefit

No-one will want to get too emotionally involved in everyday objects like toothpaste or toilet roll, for example. But they might connect with the idea of “clean” or “comfortable” in categories like this.

How much emotion you build in to the message is also important.

Strong positive emotions like love or humour and help advertising copy create a stronger connection between consumer and brand. But negative strong emotions like anger or fear can also be impactful if handled sensitively.

Plan for objections and barriers

If you have done the work to have a clear picture of your target audience, you can also anticipate objections they might have about the message.

Typical objections might be that something is too expensive, not right for them, not the right time for them or they already have something that gives them this benefit.

If you can provide answers to these objections and barriers in a natural and authentic way, you increase the chances of getting a positive response from the advertising copy.

Running track with hurdles set up for a sprint race

We’re talking to “you”

You should consider how you talk to the consumer themselves. Do you talk in the first person (“I”), second person (“you”) or third person (“They”) for example. 

You’ll find a lot of second person writing in advertising copy, because it talks directly to “you”. 

So, when you talk about making the message more relevant to readers, that’s for everyone. But when you talk about making the message more relevant to “your” business, that feels much more specific. 


Once you have your core ideas, and the structure of headline, call to action and key messages, the next stage is to edit and refine the advertising copy.

As per our business writing guide, the process of editing can take average writing to another level.

This is especially true with advertising copy. You should run basic checks like spelling and grammar. You should also check the accuracy of any claims, references or links that the advertising copy makes.

But it’s also the time to reflect on and refine your choice of words you use in the advertising copy. 

Check the thesaurus to see if there are alternatives that might work better. How do the words read when they sit together? Do they sound natural or stifled? Is there a flow to the way the words sound?

Review the ideas and structure and try to fit together the words you have into a natural flow and order. Make that flow and order fit the context of the audience, brand and medium. Read the words aloud, do they sound like words someone would actually say?

Memorable and distinctive

Think about how to make the words more memorable or distinctive. What about acronyms or alliteration for example? 

Look at our example above where we talked about Perfect Pineapple Pizza. What about finding words that rhyme or repeat the same structure?  Our advertising copy for example talks about “outthink, outplay and outgrow”. The repetition of “out” pulls those three words together, better than if we just said “think, play, grow”.

Think about how you will make the advertising copy stand out and be distinctive from other messages that the target audience might see. Is every word you use absolutely necessary? 

Could you say the same with less? 

Is it single-minded?

Your aim in the editing process is to refine the words and narrow down the options. You want to end up with a single recommended version of the advertising copy. 


Once you’ve this single recommended version of the advertising copy, it might feel like the end of the process. But there’s a final series of steps to feed the advertising copy back into the advertising process. You need to craft the copy a little more.  

As we said before, the advertising copy is only part of advertising development, and now it needs to be integrated back into the rest of the creative work. 


As the advertising idea develops, copywriters will work with the producers of the other creative elements. So, as they write, they need to be aware of what’s going on with the photography, the video content and the graphic design elements.

And equally, they should be sharing their ideas, thoughts and work with those producers to make sure than when all the elements come together, the final advert feels integrated and consistent. 

The tone of voice should match the photography style for example. Writing and images should feel connected. The advertising copy should meet the physical limitations of the media, particularly if the advertising copy is script for video content. And the advertising copy should fit back into any graphic design choices like the typography.

Brand fit and copy evaluation

But with those creative connections, there’s also then a need to check all those elements fit back to the brand and the brief. We cover how to evaluate and respond to these in more detail in our guide to how to evaluate advertising. 

But from an advertising copy point of view, there are some specific areas you should check. These are to check that the advertising copy is credible, unique, relevant, engaging and readable. 


Does the writing sound like it comes from the brand? And if it articulates a benefit, is that benefit actually deliverable by the brand? And would consumers believe the benefit?


Does the writing sound like something that could only come from the brand? If the writing sounds like it could have come from any brand, you will need to work on making it sound more differentiated.


With your consumer insight in mind, does what’s been written meet the needs of your target audience? Will they find it interesting enough to read all the way through?


Is it written in a way that’s likely to appeal to the target audience? Think about the context they will be reading it in. What is it they are looking for? Is it practical guidance? Or entertainment? Or even to find our more about what you offer?


Finally, is the writing readable? Make sure there are no typos. Make sure there are no confusing or ambiguous words. Look at where the writing will appear and check how it reads when you see it in context, rather than just in a Word document or an email.

Copywriting and market research

The final stage of the advertising copywriting process is then where you would use market research to evaluate the writing (and the other creative elements) with the target audience.

This pre-testing of advertising we cover in our guide to advertising evaluation.

But from a copywriting point of view, you want to make sure that the audience understands the copy first. And then, that it has the desired impact that you want it to have. 

Based on client feedback on the brand fit and market research, the advertising copy might need to go through a further round of editing and crafting to make it work.

Person holding glasses in front of them against a blurry street background

And even, when the advertising copy is finally approved and goes live, don’t forget the importance of on-going evaluation.

You can use quantitative continuous research to understand the impact of the advertising copy and whether real consumers actually take away the key messages you intended.

Conclusion - advertising copy

The benefits of great adverting copy to your brand and your business success are huge. When done well, great advertising copy will be memorable, impactful and game-changing.

But as this guide shows, the process to get to great advertising copy can be complex and challenging. There are tough conversations to have about what to include and what to leave out.

Most of the actual writing in terms of words will get discarded, with only a few words making it to the final advertising copy.

It’s like a writing version of the Hunger Games.

Close up on person writing (typing) on a MacBook

Whether you write your own advertising copy, or manage it through an agency, it’s a skill that needs practice and constant learning. It requires solid technical skills of writing as per our guide on how to be a better writer. But it also requires strong understanding of brands and especially brand identity.

But most of all, it requires a deep understanding about people, and how you can use writing to influence or persuade them to think, feel or do something. 

An understanding of the psychology of influence through reading for example Cialdini’s book on Influence can help raise your advertising copy game. (see also our article on behavioural science). 

We’d also highly recommend Richard Schotton’s book The Choice Factory for anyone writing advertising copy. It covers 25 behavioural bias and behaviours that marketers can tap into to make their messaging more likely to persuade and influence. We cover one particular example in our article on business writing that stands out.

Three-brains and writing

We’ve a lot of experience and expertise in business writing, and especially in advertising copy.

From creating and commissioning writing to the editing and refining of it for marketing and e-Commerce purposes.

We specialise in coaching and advising on how to raise your business writing skills. Whether you use writers, manage it in-house or want to build your own writing skills, we can help. 

Contact us, if you want to know more about how we can support your business writing needs  through our coaching and consulting services.

Latest Writing blog posts