February 16, 2017
Copywriting is not about the print ad anymore and hasn’t been for some time. But that doesn’t make the skill set any less important. You don’t have a website without words; try building a wire without them.
Providing clever, provocative and powerful copy to web designers and the like is critical. For many copywriters, feeding them content that inspires their work is the job. Just as art directors and designers have had to evolve so have writers. When the dust cleared from these early transitions both writers and art directors realized that what they do is essentially the same. New media still uses words and pictures. Creating a “look and feel” for this website or that social campaign has new obligations but the fundamentals are the same.
For example, I’m asked to help create a website for a B2B start up. The first thing we need is an “organizing principle” or key idea that drives the whole thing. This means a strategy line and a creative line – just like it does for any mass media campaign. Without it, you’re flying blind.
In a sense then the landing page functions as your “anthem” or “mantra.” Clients need, want and demand this asset the same as they did 25 years ago. So we write it. I present these to my clients much like I did in the beginning, when I was creating brand campaigns at Leo Burnett. Poetry and power had better be there.
Subsequently, each page of a website operates like a print ad, with a killer headline and precise and compelling copy. Every vertical needs an “ad” that wholly demonstrates its unique offering while at the same time adhering to the covenants of the organizing principle.
The email campaign directing targeted customers to the website is not much different than your classic teaser campaign. When we make advertising it is still advertising, be it online or off. And it damn well better be magical.
The lesson for clients and agencies alike is not to forsake the core skills of writing and designing in a chase for so-called digital natives. If they are mediocre designers or write like they text the output will suck. Don’t go there. Look for brilliant writers and art directors. The modern world is not an excuse for creating superficial tactics.
For magical copywriting and creative direction, no matter what: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/
AdAge did an interesting story about waning interest in professional boxing by corporate sponsors. Specifically, the piece is about one-time welterweight champion, Floyd Mayweather. He, as you may know, also did a turn on Dancing with the Stars. Mayweather still commands huge paydays in the ring –some 75 million for his last bout- but advertisers by and large remain indifferent to him.
In his piece, Jeremy Mullman cites continuous bad publicity and corruption as primary reasons for the sport’s diminishing popularity, in particular with advertisers. The onset of Ultimate Fighting into the mainstream is another. The “sweet science” is being upgraded by fighting that is both more brutal and more technical. Call it fighting 2.0.
Boxing has always been an enigma to me. In my early twenties I adored it. I suppose a lot of men did. Fighters like Hector “Macho” Camacho ruled the ring and Wide World of Sports. Remember that? Ali had long since retired but, of course, his nemesis, George Foreman was still banging heads and then began selling grills as well. We all know Mike Tyson. Big personalities and badass boxers as well.
For whatever reasons, boxing seems antiquated now. Something from another time, like the afternoon paper, playing cards or …advertising?
I wonder if there are lessons in this for us in Adland. Perhaps the sweet science of “persuasive communication” could learn from boxing’s downturn. Farfetched? Think about it. We too are being encroached by more brutal and more technical means, first the Internet and now social media. Corruption and bad press also beset us. Like boxing, twenty years ago we were the shit. Like boxing, we are now in the shit.
More likely, I’m full of shit. Boxing and advertising are completely different, like apples and oranges. But it was fun comparing them, sort of like those writing exercises we’d get in college: discuss two disparate things and form a cogent argument. Anyway, I suppose I got carried away. But what can I say? I like boxing and advertising. I also like writing exercises!
Digital. Easier than it looks?
The following in an excerpt from a piece I wrote for Campaign Magazine last week. The juiciest piece, it also fits into a wider discussion we’ve been having here about integration…
The biggest obstacle towards achieving creativity with digital can be found in our very own creative departments. For various reasons, we tend to build the digital creative group separate from the traditional.
This is a grievous error. In order for creativity to thrive (not just survive), another marriage is required: that of general and digital. I see a creative department made up of copywriters, web designers, art directors, flash artists and so on. Pair them up. Let them mate and have babies! These hybrid teams are the future. They can truly create worthy content that also functions precisely as portals.
Agencies hold on to old ideas. Unless we are forced (by conditions, clients or competition), we are likely to construct inefficient silos within our creative department, if not the agency as a whole. Separating digital creatives from traditional creatives (not to mention direct marketing from general) causes fiefdoms and redundancies. Working in multiple channels serves agency and practitioner alike, as well as the client.
We perceive digital creative to be more complicated than it really is. A screen is a screen, after all. Words are spelled the same.