A blue cover with the words of the title in white
Junior: Writing Your Way Ahead In Advertising
Thomas Kemeny

Decent level of advice for someone working advertising or an advertising-adjacent role. Some interesting tips on creative writing techniques, but nothing too in-depth.


'Writing. Rewriting. Re-rewriting. Say hello to 90% of your job.' (Page 39)

Nothing, said well, is still nothing.

So much copy has been overdone and ruined by adverts and businesses over the years that it's all too easy to regurgitate the same things again and again.

Spend time mindlessly writing onto a page to allows thoughts to surface in the act. This is where the mind works in a way we don't always understand.

Examples of overused terms:

  • That's why
  • First
  • Only
  • Unique
  • New
  • Etc...

A good line is self-contained and neat. A great line makes a huge impression and leaves you thinking beyond the literal statement itself.

It can often help to give a voice to your writing, but in a very literal way. That is, you'll write something different if you imagine an old English gentlemen, versus an American mom or Irish poet. Put that voice in your head as you write, and see all kinds of different things come out for 'the same thing'.

A really important part of writing copy is making the solution more interesting than the problem. Focusing on the solution is more important because you are wasting space otherwise.

Don't search for inspiration in ads and other people's copy, that way leads homogeneity and boredom. Instead, look for it in literature, in theatre, in film, in poetry, in art.

Remove 'like', 'stuff' and 'things' from your vocabulary completely.

Some writing can be too smooth and, therefore, forgettable! Find a way to throw people off and you'll become much more memorable.

If you introduce artificial constraints you will naturally increase creativity. E.g. you can't use the word 'the', or the letter Y. Maybe something interesting will happen when you're forced down an unusual path...!

Quick Wins

Some stuff to get you going quickly:

  • Twist well-known sayings, e.g.: 'better the devil you don't know', 'your guess isn't as good as mine.'
  • Take boring... make play, e.g.: 'Great Burgers in Bristol' becomes 'The West Country: Home of Burger Nirvana'
  • Vastly improve on the line that they give you in the brief. Chances are they'll like it quite a bit because it's a version of what they already had in mind.
  • Big/small, high/low, e.g.: 'small package, big hitter', or 'tiny fees, massive smiles'.
  • Jab, jab, left hook, e.g.: word, word, word... twist.

Body Copy and Long Form

'Somehow the lie has spread that people don't read anymore. Yet in a given day a person will read online news, blogs, twitter, instant messages, emails, signs, menus, presentations, online articles, to start. Then they go home to read a book and relax.' (Page 64)

People are actually reading more than ever. There's just very strong competition.

Headline + body = title + story.

'Getting specific is memorable for some reason. If I say I kicked you with my shoes it's less memorable than saying I kicked you in the shins with my purple high-tops. When a description is detailed it seems important. When you're reading a book and the author spends a page describing a character's face, you assume the character is vital, otherwise why would that much emphasis be put on them.' (Page 69)

The body is often treated as an explanation of the headline, which is inherently boring.

Write to a vibe and the rest will follows. Don't try to nail it all perfectly first time, write at length then chop it all together.

Most of the beginning can go, most of the time. You've probably done too much! Cut a word, a sentence, a whole paragraph, and see how it still flows.

Logos, Ethos, Pathos

Aristotelian modes of persuasion or rhetorical appeals.

Logos: logic and reason, the left hemisphere of the brain.

Ethos: credibility and proof of something.

Pathos: emotion and feeling, right hemisphere.

Are you leaning heavily on just one and ignoring the others? Are you able to include all three somehow?



The internet isn't a heavy medium; it punishes density and opacity. People will switch away to any number of things if you can't keep their interest:

  • BBC News
  • Reddit
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Email
  • Porn

Good digital content is clear, a joy to read and takes no more than 3 steps to get to, find, interact with.

Build a world then live in it: consistent experience across the board is very important. Anchor to a main theme, use consistent language.

Read your copy aloud before you publish: helpful to time things out the way you hear them so you get a sense for what it's like to to read and hear.

Pitching New Business / 'Advice'

'To win a pitch, keep ideas brief. If any idea takes longer than 15 seconds to explain, kill it.' (Page 123)

Don't oversell. If they've said 'yes'. stop trying to keep on selling, even if there's still loads of cool stuff you want to show them or convince them on. You might also run the risk of making them realise something they'd missed or find something to pick you up on.

'They're not buying ads, they're buying a vision and the clearer the vision the more likely they are to buy it.' (Page 123)

Ripe fruit rots - if it's not fresh and timely, you're too late. Get stuff out the door as soon as you can.

'If the meeting's going great, keep it moving. If the meeting's going terribly, keep it moving.' (Page 134)
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