Two Communities of Practice: From the Classroom to an Ad Agency

Hello fellow Capstone students! I’m excited to dive into my final undergraduate semester by revisiting the Minor in Writing Blog. My name is Joseph Kiessling, I’m majoring in business administration, and I will be attending law school in the fall. After reading Hunter & Ketter’s article “Creating a Writer’s Identity,” I noted how I have participated in two drastically different communities of practice since I took the Gateway course. While I had previously focused only on the “big picture” of an essay, my work at an ad agency helped me build awareness of the details that make up larger works.

The summer after my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to work at Enlighten, an ad agency specializing in digital media. As an intern, I created paid search and social media campaigns for clients. One of my favorite responsibilities at Enlighten was writing ad copy for the campaigns. As you have almost certainly seen, paid search advertisements are made up of short phrases aiming to convince searchers to “click-through” to the actual site:

I worked for the Hunter Douglas account during my time at Enlighten. Believe it or not, it can be difficult to think of creative phrases for selling honeycomb window shades. But that was part of the challenge: I had to come up with ad copy that (a) was under 35 characters per line and (b) generated high click-through rates. Every character had to count. This was completely different from what I had experienced in my first two years of college. Professors gave minimum lengths for papers, and these were conveyed by using pages instead of characters as the unit of measure. Whenever I sat down to write ad copy, I saw it as creating a line in a crossword puzzle: what’s 35 characters (or shorter) and convinces you to visit Hunter Douglas’ site?

Oddly enough, refining my ad copy writing skills ended up informing my academic writing. After writing and rewriting these small phrases, I realized that this was a level of editing I had never practiced before. I had moved paragraphs around and rewrote sentences in my academic essays, but I had never revised on a truly micro level. I had discovered another dimension of my writing – if I was condensing and revising Hunter Douglas copy to make it more persuasive, why couldn’t I do the same for my argumentative essays? Instead of plowing through verbs and adjectives as they come to mind, I now make sure to revisit my essays phrase by phrase. Even though these papers are much longer than the ads I wrote for window shades, I still try to apply the same mentality. Instead of writing a single line in a crossword puzzle, though, I’m creating the whole game.

2 thoughts to “Two Communities of Practice: From the Classroom to an Ad Agency”

  1. Hey Joseph,
    Your internship sounds super interesting and it seems like you learned a lot of valuable skills. I struggle sometimes with being concise, which is an important writing craft element. It seems like your job required you to crucially examine each word your wrote for ad copy. I like how you said “every character had to count.” I think that this is sometimes overlooked in writing, especially in academic settings when students are trying to meet mandatory minimums. Okay, maybe in academia it isn’t so much every character, but rather every word that needs to count. I have found myself recently revising my writing by thinking about whether words I have serve a purpose or whether some just seem to be fillers. I also like how you mentioned verbs and adjectives, and choosing them carefully. This is so important, because sometimes I think less is more– a powerful verb might get rid of the need to use an adjective in a sentence. Anyway, it sounds like your internship really helped you in your revision process in your academic writing, and that is awesome!

  2. Hi Joseph,

    Wow, what an interesting internship! It is interesting how the internship altered your viewpoints on word counts. I struggle with word counts myself. I am a very wordy person in both my speech and my writing. People usually have to tell me to stop talking. Not that I like to talk a lot, but I tend to express my point many, many times. Usually, I go around and around in circles until people have no idea what I am trying to convey.

    In regards to this semester, I am excited to be in your group. Please reach out to me anytime with questions.



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