Would the real Copywriter please stand up?

Originally written for and published on BizCommunity.com.
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In a world of SEO (dead or not) and the immediacy of content-to-consumer needed, there seems to be more copy needed than Copywriters out there. Never fear, for an article titled How to Get High-Performance Sales Copy Without Hiring a Copywriter hit the blogosphere recently.

Information like this is priceless and will change the future for Laquisha, the envelope filling entrepreneur, Donathan’s Christmas present opening startup or aunty Martha who believes that her smoked haddock air freshener range is going to make a mint. It’s easy, you see? This white paper on our profession by Christina Gillick says that readers make good writers, so if you read a lot, you can do your own Copywriting.

Everyone’s a writer

I arrived at the New Zealand Chiefs Super 15 practice. They asked what I was doing there before I explained that I’d watched a few games on the telly, was a fan of the scrum and always fancied being the guy they throw in the air in the lineout. Naturally, they showed me to my locker right away, kitted me out with my costume and we won the tournament. Hoorah! Anyone can do it, right?

Not really. So would you sit down at the latest iMac complete with state-of-the-art spectroradiometers and design your own corporate identity? Quickly go and read a lot so that you could write you own objective-driven copy or sew yourself a tuxedo for that promotion-to-CEO gala dinner? You could certainly try – everyone loves a guy with a sense of humour.

I can count on my hands the amount of times I have read something and said “Holy shitballs Mom! I wish I’d written that!” – yet it would take you more than a day to count all the people in our industry who are calling themselves writers. Then try vetting them… that should blow your hair back.

I Googled one Christina Gillick and found a lovely picture of her lying under the tree with her laptop, working – obviously. It was titled: “Christina Gillick enjoying the writer’s life at her quiet country home in Texas.” They must do things differently in Texas because, let’s be honest, writing is anything but quiet-time. It’s as deadline-driven as any job and usually involves at least nine other voices in your own head before the first word has hit the page. But I’m down when it comes to helpful tips, so anytime I have to produce any High-Performance Sales Copy, I’m heading for a tree in Texas.

Supply and demand

Bad-Copywriting2Fact is, more and more people are looking for (competent) content generators. However – and whether it comes down to a budget or the urgency pandemic – the entry barrier at many agencies into these roles is not exactly up there with the bar exam. And if you believe that these agency roles are no science, then you may be part of the problem – there’s no avoiding the fact that writing decent, engaging copy is not for everyone.

Someone who kinda sorta maybe enjoyed English in High School isn’t necessarily the right talent for this work. What should be important to agency owners and clients alike is not necessarily finding someone with a Masters in English, but someone who has a natural talent mixed with an undeniable passion for their craft and a body of work that demonstrates such. There’s your candidate.

 

Has Copywriting lost its heart? 

Not entirely. But very often, the diluted skill-set in a room that determines the direction of a brand forgets the importance of stories. We all need stories that prompt us to feel something, and be inspired or motivated by. Whether these are seen on TV, heard on Radio, watched in a taxi or at the rank, interpreted across a series of billboards and reinforced with what we engaged with online once we got to the office, seen in a double page spread, advertorial, blog or TTL campaign – people need something to latch on to. What good is content that popped up first on your search but did absolutely nothing for you after that? And to tell stories by mastering his craft, a writer needs to be able to see something different about the world around him; to understand that the resonant power of writing is in the magic of how 26 letters are arranged together and that there is nothing coincidental about this.

There really are no sneaky tricks, nor are there quick fixes. If you want copy that moves and motivates while delivering on the brief, find a talented, passionate writer that loves to write. That’s all there is to it. Failing that, you could be master of all (none) and use Google to teach you how to do it all yourself. While you’re at it, you can learn how to remove warts, how to design a poster, how to be a good wife, how to become a vampire, how to strategic plan and how to find the best tree to lie under when needing to produce High-Performance Sales Copy.

The list is long, how much time do you have?

Copy1

© Dylan Balkind

Copywriters and Designers, sitting in a tree…

Q. How many Copywriters does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Change! I’m not changing crap! This is bullshit – who said to change it?

Q. How many art directors does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Does it have to be a light bulb?

Agency mechanics and politics. Always on. Not always funny. You’d think that, what with being on the same ‘team’ and all, there would be a little more collaboration. Is there a lack of willingness between Copywriters and Designers to leverage each other’s work?  Absolutely. Too many Designers just drop the Copywriters text into a print ad. Why not actually treat the text and create memorable work for both your portfolios?

These guys on the other hand, got it so right! It’s great to see when the text in an image actually plays a role in creating the story.



There could be a lot more of this in the industry today.

Would you Graffitti your mother’s face?

Ogilvy in Paris France (said parisfrance) have used imagery that would otherwise make us say “aah” and, with “modifications” not unlike what we see in our day-to-day surrounds, have posed respect as a question and asked how far we will go in the lack of ours? What will it take before we respect the planet? Indeed. I think these print ads for the WWF are impactful and communicate exactly what they were intend to.

Powerful stuff.

Click to enlarge:

Dolphin for dinner?

Bank ads have always elicited opinion because most of them don’t walk the walk they’re talking. “Why would a bank be interested in people’s values?” asks the opening voice over on this ad I found. The answer stands behind the obvious messaging that with a shortage of sea life still lies an interesting tale of survival vs morals. This commercial walks the walk of Advertising for me. You will remember it tomorrow. And with powerful imagery and performances, it proves that actions – and visuals – speak louder than words.

Hungry, cold and tired men work hard to feed and provide, but, as the message is so strikingly laid bare before us, there are still decisions to be made at every turn. Check out HSBCs ‘Personal Responsibility’ by JWT London.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHW4noLp9mE

What choice would you make?

Ripe and ready. The Magners method.

Camaraderie is such an inspiring human behaviour to witness. Anyone watching the World Cup will agree. So while ball-sports are the order of the day, Magners Irish Cider is still on the guest list. A little different in pace to what dominates our lives this June and July, 2010 – and therein lies the memorable moment.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN5fLRAT-nA

UK based agency The Red Brick Road aligns the story of a small town cricket team having been unbeatable for a record 75 years – the same amount of time they have been harvesting apples for Magners Cider. Ageing cricket players teamed with younger fitter ones make up a team of players that seem to get their practice from their lifestyle and livelihood – they never miss a falling cider apple. Practice makes perfect and this team is very definitely getting the right practice. Great performances and nice direction result in a clean-cut message.

I don’t think their print ad is as powerful however. I’m not sure whether it is a tighter execution to the copy that would have made it as memorable as the TVC or a different choice of visual. The languid man doesn’t look like he is having to trust his senses but rather that he is looking for the answer to life from an apple. Both will resonate with an audience in partnership with the other however, so the campaign is no doubt a sure hit. What say you?

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