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Copywriter Vikki Ross on what makes award-winning copywriting

Six examples of successful copywriting and the techniques used to make them stand out

Illustration by Roseanna Courtney

Vikki Ross is a copywriter who specialises in branding and tone of voice, and has worked with global brands such as Twitter, Spotify and Sony Music. Taking a look at previous New Blood and Professional entries, Ross highlights the different elements that made them stand out to the judges – from evoking different emotions to holding your audience’s attention. These techniques can be incorporated into your own copywriting, whether you’re at the early stages of your copywriting career, or looking to make your New Blood entry more compelling.

"As copywriters, we have one of the best jobs in the world – we get to talk directly to our audience and tell stories. We get to entertain, to make an impact, to appeal to emotions. And we get to play. We can play with words, move them around a page and bring their meaning or character to life in unexpected ways. Let's take a look back at some Pencil-winning copy from the New Blood and Professional awards."
– ​​Vikki Ross, Copy Chief and Brand and TOV consultant


An obvious Yellow Pencil winner in Nationwide and Shelter's Copwriting category (the panel arrived at live judging with it front of mind from the preliminary remote round), this entry sailed straight through to Black Pencil judging where it was up against every Yellow Pencil winner from every category. But this one stood out. Really stood out. It made us think. It made some of us emotional. It made all of us jealous. Around 800 words (it was a very demanding brief) combine in anger, frustration, desperation and honesty to tell a compelling story. But it's not just the story that earns the accolade. It's the craft. Around 800 words combine in rhythmic precision – it's rare to read writing of this quality.
​Award: Black Pencil / New Blood Awards 2018 / Nationwide & Shelter brief

Bottles of Squash

Already a D&AD Yellow Pencil winner in its 2016 Dazed short-film category, this entry blew a unanimous Black Pencil jury away with one simple thing - honesty. It’s raw and it’s true. It makes you feel. If you’re around the same age as the writer, you can relate to him. If you’re older, it makes you remember your youth. All of these beautiful elements make for an incredibly emotive piece.
Award: Black Pencil / New Blood Awards 2016 / Dazed brief


Insightful, entertaining and true. This could easily have gone weird and wacky but it stayed focused and smart for work not seen before in radio. A clear target audience and objective really helps copy feel natural, not forced.
Award: Yellow Pencil / Professional Awards 2015 / Colenso BBDO

Survival Billboard - Terms & Horrible, Horrible Conditions

No one assumes legals could win an award, especially in a creative world, but here it is – a worthy winner. Worthy because the agency was brave enough to try something different, and worthy because the client and their legal team agreed to it. And then there’s the copywriting. A whole page of legal copy that continues to bring the game to life where you’d least expect it, and all in the brand voice too.
Award: Wood Pencil / Professional Awards 2016 / m: united // McCann

Pieces of Work That Prove the Power of Copy

I Wish My Son Had Cancer / I Wish my Son was a Dog

It’s easy to get carried away with a disruptive idea. Copy can get over excited and shouty begging the audience to notice it, but when a line hits the right emotion and then reveals a twist that hits even harder, it will hold the audience’s attention and stay with them. This line is based on truth and insight, and there’s nothing better to work to in a brief.
Award: Graphic Pencil / Professional Awards 2014 and Wood Pencil / Professional Awards 2015 / Havas Media Group

No. 2 says he tries harder. Than who?

Often a brief will ask for an ad to communicate that the brand is better than its competitors. And often the execution slams the competitor. Why waste budget and media space by talking about a brand that’s not your own? This ad – featured in the D&AD Copy Book – is a master class in taking the upper hand. Full of benefits, not dirty tactics.

Take a look at more tips and inspiration to help you kick start your creative career or with your New Bloods entry.