ad concept confusion
November 16, 2009 2:06 PM   Subscribe

New to copywriting: what is an 'ad concept' ?

I do a lot of writing and now taking a stab at copywriting. I've been hired to produce 5-10 ad concepts for a single page ad, to include headlines and blurbs.

Please explain what an ad concept is! Is this a fully realized idea, or a general idea to be worked out later? Will each of the 5-10 concepts need to be fully realized? (and if so, is this a crazy assignment?)

(The person who hired me seems to be a little upset with my ignorance, otherwise I would keep asking him.)
posted by Jason and Laszlo to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
An ad concept is just an unsolicited, unendorsed ad. So you'd do one for Coke, for example. It's a big brand, instantly recognisable, but Coca-Cola hasn't actually come to you and asked you to do it, so that's what makes it a concept ad. They want to see your take on already-familiar products and services.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:14 PM on November 16, 2009

Unless, of course, they've specifically asked you for ad concepts for their products/services, in which case you'd do that.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:16 PM on November 16, 2009

yes, for their products.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 2:19 PM on November 16, 2009

I worked in advertising, but not copy writing. My understanding is that it's five examples of different creative directions. For instance, we could write one ad as an angry person, one using high falutin language, etc. The client will choose one, and then that direction will be worked on more. Pretend all of them are final.
posted by xammerboy at 2:21 PM on November 16, 2009

I don't know how much this helps, but I'm a marketing writer and occasional copy writer, and I've never been given a task where I'm developing an ad concept separate from a designer. Are they asking for you to come up with suggestions for visuals as well, or have they provided images to pair the copy with? Either way, the copy and concept should be as fleshed out as possible.

If I wasn't working with a designer and had no visual information to go on, I would probably just propose the five to 10 ad concepts in a Word document as follows:

Concept: Main idea and suggestion for visual/image
Headline: Your headline goes here.
Blurb: Your blurb goes here.

If you won't have an opportunity to present the concepts in person, I'd also include a rationale or explanation of concept.
posted by lunalaguna at 2:23 PM on November 16, 2009

Sorry, occasional ad copy writer.
posted by lunalaguna at 2:24 PM on November 16, 2009

no visuals or designs are included, just examples of past projects. Very helpful so far! thank you!!
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 2:26 PM on November 16, 2009 aren't working with a creative director or account person for direction? Sounds like they are looking to you for creative direction as well as just copy.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:33 PM on November 16, 2009

no mention was made of design or images, just blurbs, headlines, and body copy.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 2:36 PM on November 16, 2009

He just wants you to give him some basic ideas for the ad campaign. Something like:

"OK, the visual is a photo of a big plate of beans. It is the only thing sitting on a picnic table. There's a guy sitting in a chair next to it in a pose like Rodin's "The Thinker." The headline is "Don't Overthink It." Down in the lower left corner there is a MetaFilter logo. The website's URL is in the lower right."

Then he'll say, "Yeah, that's awesome, let's go with that."

And then he'll change everything.

Welcome to advertising!
posted by spilon at 3:43 PM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Even though you get the sense that you're asking too many questions, I do think that there are some things that you need to clarify with your client, and that you could get away with asking without sounding like a novice.

I think you get the idea of the "concept:" it's just a treatment of what you would see on a page. So you just need to brainstorm 5-10 ways you could sell the product in a way that fits the desired format and reaches the appropriate audience. Did they tell you the audience? (If not, try researching it--that's one of those questions that tend to make testy clients testier.)

Also, it's still unclear how your client plans to turn your words into a fully-realized, not lookit-what-I-made-in-MSWord–style ad. That is, who's art directing/designing this thing? You could ask questions like:
--Do you have an Art Director I could work with or that I could just bounce my ideas off of?
--At what point in the timeline are Copy and Art married? Are [your title here]s usually involved in this process?

This is important, because you need keep in mind that the more your concept looks like an ad, the more likely the client is to buy it. If they expect art directed work from you when you hand it in, it's best that you know it, so you don't run the risk of underwhelming them.

If it turns out that "they're handling the Art" (regardless of what that means), I'd submit 5-10 pages with one ad each (vertically oriented since they're single-pagers) with my headline in the headline position, subhead beneath that, logo/tagline in the bottom right corner (and maybe provide copy options for individual components within each concept), and a description in the middle of what is going on visually (and possibly swiped images if you can make them look nice). If your body copy is fairly generic you can write it once and greek it in later concepts. Try to make it as visually appealing (or at least as not off-putting) as possible.

If they have a partner for you, try to bounce ideas back and forth with them even if you have to do it remotely. Then your art partner would design the concepts you discsussed and pop your copy into them.

If you are responsible for the art, then yes, your assignment is crazy.
posted by TG_Plackenfatz at 4:49 PM on November 16, 2009

Do you have a contract with your client stipulating the extent of what is expected? If you don't, draw one up right away. If the client refuses to sign, tell them that perhaps this isn't the right fit and move on.

Concepts are just rough outlines. There's no point in spending hours researching and writing copy unless you know you've got the go-ahead. How big are these ads going to be? If the space hasn't been booked or your client doesn't know, then you're wasting your time. Is it a full page broadsheet or a quarter page? Of the previous samples, were they all the same size?

The fact that no mention of design has come up is a red flag to me. Even an ad that has no visual elements (no logo? really?) should have a designer look at it; typography-heavy ads can be really tricky.
posted by Salmonberry at 5:05 PM on November 16, 2009

no mention was made of design or images, just blurbs, headlines, and body copy

A concept is an idea or intention. At the concept stage, I would think a headline and blurb would suffice to show the direction in which you intend to proceed. The concept can be refined as you move forward and the body copy will probably be the last thing you complete. How many people actually read entire print ads, anyways?

Ad concepts are frequently shown in unfortunately titled "tissue sessions." These are meetings where the copywriters and art directors show their concepts, usually drawn in Sharpie on tissue paper. The valid concepts are refined. The duds are tossed. Refine. Toss. Refine. Toss. Final ad.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 5:11 PM on November 16, 2009

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