Is the art of copywriting in its final throes?
There was a time, twenty years ago or so, when creative departments were filled with talented wordsmiths.
I used to work with a writer called Barry who had retired to the world of advertising from Fleet Street. Barry would spend hours crafting the opening line to a charity letter, while taking nips from a bottle of bourbon stored in his bottom drawer. He knew the value of a carefully chosen turn of phrase, how the perfect sentence could have someone reaching for their wallet sooner than you could say ‘kittens’.
But far from having a way with words, it’s starting to feel like the advertising industry is doing away with them. In our current preoccupation with images, we’re losing the art of writing punchy headlines and beautiful four-page letters which read more like short stories than ads.
Billboards are filled with with overblown expressions like “world-renowned”, “exclusive”, “sought after”, “bespoke”,”ultimate”, which promise everything yet mean nothing.
On radio, poorly scripted dialogue has me reaching for the volume button to save my ears the pain. And don’t get me started on the digital world, where anyone with a keyboard can tap out a few words and call themselves a blogger.
So where does that leave the poor old written word? In this age of shortening attention spans, do we have time to enjoy a well crafted line or two? The answer is yes – but like everything, the art of copywriting is changing.
With millions of posts, blogs, streams and messages shouting “Read me!”, it’s more important than ever to use the right language to connect. To engage. To inform. To entertain. To persuade. There may be less time, less space and even less budget than before, but there is still as much of a need for expertly crafted copy.
That’s because despite our time-poor existence, much of what we do online is still based on good old-fashioned words. Amidst the clamour of news feeds, search engine results, tweets, updates, e-mails and product reviews, finding the right words to tell your story well, in a compelling and different way, isn’t so easy.
The world still needs good copywriters – they just may not know it yet.