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Teamwork illustration

I’m a copywriter. I sit at my desk glued to my computer screen and my best friend is my dog. What do I know about teams?

I would not be very good at my job if it were not for teams. Individual skills will get you so far but you can be so much better at your job if you work with people who are better than you.

The more talented people you have around you, the smarter you look.

Why do copywriters work in teams?

Everyone who has played in some sort of team sport knows how it works. You work together and everyone plays to their strengths. Copywriters are no different, they might specialise in different areas but if you work with good people, they can make you better at your job.

Before you can write anything, you need to know what you are selling, who you are talking to, where they hang out and what makes them tick. In an advertising agency there is a large team of specialists to help you work all that out.

The role of the copywriter is to produce creative concepts first and copy second. In truth, 90% of all of the ideas you produce as a copywriter end up in the bin. And it is only the concepts that get approved that need copy, so a copywriter in an agency doesn’t actually write a massive amount of words.

A concept is an idea. It can be just words or is can be just pictures, more often than not it is a combination of both. It is these concepts that are pitched to clients, the ideas that they think will work the best.

So, how do you go about generating concepts?

Creative teams

The people that are responsible for generating concepts are the creative teams, a copywriter that works side-by-side with an Art Director. One is responsible for the words the other is responsible for pictures.

Having said that, every single creative team I have met will create the work together, it doesn’t matter who comes up with the words or who comes up with the pictures for the concepts, it is the ideas that are important.

The team will sit together and bounce ideas off each other until they find something they like. Once they have an idea, the writer will take responsibility for any words – if they have to write a script or body copy. The Art Director will take responsibility for how the idea is visualised.

You become very close as you spend every working day with each other. I spent 10 years working with my first Art Director. When we moved agencies, we moved together, we were a package. This is typical, when you find someone that brings the best ideas out of you, you stick with them.

Account team

But that creative team don’t start pulling ideas out of thin air, they need help from other people in the agency. The first in line to meet a new client of the agency and get to know their business is the Account team.

The success of any business communication will depend on understanding who you are talking to and what the client wants to achieve with that piece of communication – what’s the business goal? The Account team gets to know the client’s business and the industry they are competing in.

They are the link, the linchpin between the agency and the client. They will help translate the client’s business goals into communication needs. In essence, they are mapping out the playing field, checking who you are up against and what you need to do to beat the competition. That requires a strategy.


The role of the strategist is to come up with a plan on how to achieve those business goals, how to score points with potential customers. This is called a brand strategy.

We live in a very competitive world where lots of companies are fighting over the same piece of the pie. Getting noticed is difficult, you need a plan and that’s what a strategy is. Ask a planner like Philip Adams and they will define a brand strategy as,


Sounds fancy and it is. Strategists are the creative thinkers who steer the focus of the communication. They look at the big picture and then devise a route to the goal. From that brand strategy they then create a creative brief, the document a creative team uses to generate concepts.

Basically, it is a treasure map, it gives the creative team the information they need, describing where they should start digging for ideas.

The media team

The next lot that turn up at the table are the media team. They recommend the best place to talk to the client’s customers. No point making something if you cannot get it in front of the right people’s eyes.

They will wade through the data with their software and advice the client which media platforms they should spend their money on.


The people that bring the ideas to life. There are so many talented people who work very hard to make you look great. Designers, typographers, motion graphic artists, illustrators, photographers, producers…the list goes on. These are the people that make the ideas happen, they can turn your silly drawings into works of art. On top of that, all of these teams need to be organised to come together at the right time or nothing would be done, the people in the Traffic department.


Every member of the team does their bit. Each one adds value. The copywriter cannot do anything without the groundwork being laid by others.

If you want to be a copywriter but have not worked in an agency, it’s a good idea to know the team you will be joining. Your success is wrapped up in theirs.

Work with good people and you get great results.

About the author

At school I had no idea what a copywriter was or even existed. I saw ads on TV, and like most people, I thought they were made by the companies that advertised. I went to college got a degree in Economics and moved to London and by accident bumped into the advertising industry. I became a copywriter and travelled the world, laughing at how lucky I was. I now live and work in New Zealand.
Steve Girdlestone