There used to be a long-standing joke in the advertising business about how to write a TV ad. It would always start with something like “We open on a tropical island” or “The backdrop is Sydney Opera House” or “The camera pans across the Grand Canal in Venice” or…well, you get the general idea. First make sure the location is fantastic, then come up with your concept for the actual ad.
Sometimes it no doubt worked. The client bought the ad and off you went, thanking your lucky stars you’d quietly binned that (perhaps better) idea for the ad set in a coalmine or somewhere similarly unprepossessing. These days, however, there aren’t many advertisers prepared to fork out that kind of money for exotic location shoots. And fewer still who are prepared to pay for the copywriter and art director who created the ad to have an all-expenses paid trip to supervise the proceedings.
But can you still get to travel as a copywriter? The answer is yes, providing you’re working with big brands and big budgets, although it’s much more likely to be somewhere less expensive and closer to home, that is if the client goes for a TV ad at all rather than trying to make a cheap video that goes viral. You should also bear in mind that even photographic shoots are thinner on the ground than they were with the rise in digital photography and the lowering of advertising budgets generally. You almost always have to be on the agency staff, however.
But what if you’re a freelance copywriter, as I am? Well, the good news is that travel can still happen. As a freelancer who offers copywriting services for non-UK clients, I’ve been paid to go to places like Madrid and France, as well as a week in Saudi Arabia (fascinating, if not exactly fun-packed). I’ve also had plenty of trips around the UK and not just the standard inside-of-a-client’s-office variety. For example, one of the plus points of being a copywriter (and a good source of ideas) is visiting the client’s factory and talking to the people who work for them. Exotic it may not be, but any decent writer needs a well-developed sense of curiosity, and this kind of thing is always interesting and frequently enjoyable.
So if you’re considering a career as a copywriter, the answer is yes, there are opportunities to travel, whether you’re going the agency or self-employed route. Just avoid the content mills and the cheap blog post option, whatever you do – the nearest you’re likely to come to travel there is writing something like “50 cheap holiday ideas in Europe”, which you’ve ventured no further than Google to research.