Thursday, April 9, 2009

Revenge of the Copywriters

I'm a Creative Director by name, but by trade I'm a Copywriter. I've always been a writer, from bad teenage poetry to whoring myself in the blogosphere. So it gives me great pleasure to say to all the Designers and Art Directors out there: We're back!

For years, copy has been taking a back seat in traditional advertising. This is partly due to the fashion for visual puns that gained steam in the '90s, and partly because advertising became more and more international. Here's a famous example from BSB Hong Kong for Preparation H:

And another from Leo Burnett for Heinz spicy ketchup:

Don't bother trying to blow them up. There's no need to. They got their message across with a visual joke and logo alone. Once the creative team settled on the idea, the Copywriter most likely went out for a beer or ten.

Print, outdoor, out-of-home, even most Internet ads are an Art Director's world. The more you can say with less, the better. Advertising that bypasses the literate mind.

But what's happening now? Social media. Words, words, words. It may be 140 characters or less in some channels, but with regimented pages on Facebook, Twitter, and others, words are the only way to really differentiate yourself. (This drives Art Directors crazy, by the way. My design better half, our Associate CD in charge of Art Direction, complained that the Twitter logo on CreativeTweets kept covering up our corporate identity. The newsfeed floats over the background, after all, so there's not much control to be had.)

Today, in the agency, my Copywriting team is busier than ever. Every Social Media plan we pitch to clients needs content generated, several times a day, and even found links require catchy captions to capture overwhelmed eyeballs. The ability to write concise and compelling copy, on-strategy and in real time, is quickly becoming one of the most valuable skills in the integrated marketing world.

No offence intended towards my visual colleagues, of course. As a creative writer in a time when everyone with a spellchecker has delusions of Tolstoy, it's just nice to be appreciated again.


  1. "[E]veryone with a spellchecker has delusions of Tolstoy"? I'd go even further and say that they have delusions of Tolstoy and Wordsworth and a whole host of poets. And yet they usually end up with material like McGonagall ....

  2. @Anonymous: That's hilarious. I'd never heard of McGonagal before. Reminds me of the Vogons from Hitchhiker's Guide...