Michael Wolff, in his USA Today blog, wonders where all the copywriters have gone.
Oi! We never went away. The problem is, over the last 10 to 15 years the writing half of the creative equation has become somewhat reduced.
For a start, everyone believes they can write. You just bang away at a keyboard and presto! Words come out. Clients, account managers, even designers can—and do all too frequently ‘amend’ copy. A tinker here, a tweak there. The writer won’t mind. Tell you what, if every time you tweaked my copy I tweaked your hairstyle, that might put a stop to it all. It’s not vanity. A well-written piece of copy has every word in place for a reason.
At the same time, the advertising industry has, over the last decade and a half in particular, recruited more and more exclusively from art schools. No wonder teams and creative directors have become more visually biased.
Recently a friend of mine, a former creative director and now a business marketing coach, told me if he was starting up an agency today, he would staff it with nothing but writers because what the industry needs most is online content and stories.
And, as Michael Wolff noted, all great ideas are framed in words not pictures. From ‘I think therefore I am’ (Descartes) to ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin’ (Ronseal).
We need to remember that always striving to be different, original and startling is at the heart of the writer’s role.
So perhaps the pendulum is finally swinging back. Writers are emerging once more, not as providers of a commodity used to fill up the blank spaces between pictures, but as a rare and valued resource who can deliver original-thinking, attention-grabbing, mind-changing, best-selling, brand-building, wallet-opening, icon-making…copy.
Phil Pinn is a senior writer at gyro London
You can follow Phil at @pinnphil