Advertising: Opportunities and Insights for Editors

Panel: BAEF members Linda Marousek, Beth Underwood, and Rick
Coykendall and chaired by Karen Asbelle
Forum Organized by Rick Coykendall and Linda Marousek
Notes by Lynn Ferar

February 21, 2006

Our editors introduced themselves by describing their back- grounds and current work. Rick led off with a description of his "checkered" career as an ambulance driver, ESL teacher, and legal and technical editor who now specializes as a copyeditor and proofreader in pharmaceutical and biotech advertising. Linda was a production editor for the IDG "Dummies" series, took Berkeley editing classes, and has been traffic manager and proofreader at Grey Advertising for many years. Beth started in radio and found herself writing commercials, which has led to 14 years of freelance and in-house advertising and medical copywriting and editing.

Editing in advertising encompasses magazines, newspapers, reports, brochures, packaging and inserts, billboards, and signage. Web advertising includes everything from banners, Web sites, e-mail "pushes" to a whole campaign. Even TV needs print for its storyboards. Editors and proofreaders work in the print production departments at ad agencies. Because advertising uses so much imagery, it helps to have a "visual" eye and be alert to spacing and color issues, even though this is the Print Director’s role.

Our panelists gave us some tips for breaking into advertising: use your network for word-of-mouth leads, reach out to those you know at agencies (especially graphic artists and print directors), and do cold calling. Rick recommended participation in business networking groups, which led him into health-care editing, and then to advertising copyediting. He noted that the distinctions between editing, writing, and proofreading are not usually made--the copywriter, the traffic and account managers, and the proofreader could all be the same person. Company style guides--when they exist--vary widely, although legal wording (the "mouse" type at the end of a piece) and medical references are very important. Technical companies are likely to have an in-house legal department to refer to.

In-house editing on hard copy is the most common method because turnaround time between corrections, changes, and versions is very fast, and records of changes are more obvious. Acrobat and the Microsoft Word Track Changes tool are also used, but less often. The text breaks in Word tables can go awry, as can placement into Quark or InDesign documents.

The panelists mentioned the major stages, and the editing points, of a print ad as these: Lack of process can be common and causes problems. Stay fresh with repetitious rereading of the same or similar copy by paying special attention to line breaks, numbers, and symbols. Use a magnifying glass or, onscreen, the zoom. Get fresh air, walk around the block, have some caffeine or chocolate; use earphones (even unconnected) to diminish distractions. Invoice for a four-hour minimum when you are on-site, even if most of the time spent was "hurry up and wait." Read style guides or company material while you wait.

Concepting brief from account executive

  • Copy deck manuscript
  • Mechanical rounds (merging of the above)
  • Production sizing for various media placements
  • Printer proofs

A few freelancing tips from our experts:

  • Always ask for job jacket or backup copy or previous rounds.
  • Always get a company or client style guide.
  • Work closely with the traffic person.

What do advertising managers want from a freelancer? Good skills, speed, accuracy, availability for long hours, a visual eye. Hourly pay rates for copyediting in this field generally range from $35 to $75, and for proofreading, $25 to $40. Work hours can be 9 to 5 or 10 to 7 or 8. The job could be 14 hours in a day or part time for a year. The benefits to you can be the creativity, imagery, variety of projects, interesting people, and short forms instead of book lengths.

Find work in this field in trade magazines such as "Ad Week" for companies that are "pitching" for new business; last- minute help may be needed. Try temp agencies that specialize in ad agency placements.

On the Web: Try craigslist, which can be useful if used carefully.

  • Search the fields and companies of special interest to you.
  • Check out and LinkedIn.



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