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Why all creatives should care about copy

Mastering the world of words isn’t just for copywriters – what other creatives have to gain from better understanding the craft

Illustration by Lauren Morsley

You might have seen the memes channelling the frustration of working in a discipline that everyone has an opinion on and often has a go at themselves. Anonymous copywriting accounts capture truisms like the horror of, “We’ve figured out most of the copy already so we probably don’t need a writer for this project…” When ‘everyone’s a writer’ what is there to be gained from creatives from other disciplines actually learning more about the craft of copywriting? Well, as D&AD client of the year, Burger King CMO Fernando Machado recently tweeted – potentially, a lot. 

Sharing a photo of his copy of the D&AD book 'The Copy Book', Machado wrote, “Now reading this. And, again, strongly recommend it to all #marketing folks. No, I am not going to become a copywriter. But, if you want to enjoy great wine, it’s worth learning a bit about it even if you are not planning to have a winery.” When we reached out to him to expand on his conviction that marketers like himself as well as other creatives could stand to benefit from becoming better acquainted with the craft of copywriting Machado said, “I believe that if you work in marketing or advertising you will only gain if you invest in developing your criteria, taste and appreciation for what great work looks like,” and that includes the key discipline of copy.

"Great copy is one of the key disciplines in advertising, so one should invest to better understand what greatness looks like"

“I love our industry,” said Machado. “Great copy is one of the key disciplines in advertising, so one should invest to better understand what greatness looks like, to develop one’s personal criteria. In my view, one should invest to increase your understanding around copywriting, even if you are a client. At Burger King, we won several creative awards with executions that were basically copy only, like the open letter we created as part of McWhopper. That helped drive our brand and our business. And I am not sure I would have gone for it had I not been well educated about the power of string copywriting.”

With copywriting representing two stand-alone categories at the 2021 D&AD Awards – Writing for Advertising and Writing for Design – the craft will be a topic of debate through judging sessions and beyond. So what do this year’s Jury Presidents of these categories think there is to learn for those outside of their field?

"I still think the most valuable pure skill to have in advertising, if I had to pick one, is headline writing"

Eric Kallman, Co-Founder/CCO, Erich & Kallman, Jury President for Writing for Advertising, who also wrote for 'The Copy Book', argues that copywriting is a useful craft for anyone to master because of how it focuses clear communication. “With 30 second commercials becoming 15s and now even 6s you need to know how to get a compelling message across quickly. Simple copy, done well, can always do the trick,” he says.

Contemporary media formats put more pressures on copy to perform in increasingly competitive circumstances, but according to Kallman, there is still something universally special that can be achieved with an armory of good copywriting. “I still think the most valuable pure skill to have in advertising, if I had to pick one, is headline writing,” he says. “Especially in a world dominated by social media. Grabbing someone's attention, and even making them laugh, in two seconds while they’re on their phone or driving by a billboard is an awesome ability to have. I still remember being in college and driving past a billboard for Red Stripe that just said “Hooray Beer!” and laughing out loud alone in my car. That’s hard to do.”

"Great copywriters are also great strategists"

Russell Davies, Writer, VP Marketing, Bulb and Jury President for Writing for Design in the 2021 D&AD awards, believes that creatives on the whole might benefit from developing the problem solving skills copywriters regularly work with. “The great power of copywriting is that writing is thinking,” he says. “Great copywriters are also great strategists. If more creatives were forced to think through the problem as rigorously as writers have to do we'd have a world of tighter, brighter communications.”

These practical skills come to the fore prominently in his category of Writing for Design: “Writing for design is different to writing for advertising in the same way that designing a great product is different to doing a great ad. You need some of the same skills – imagination, focus, empathy – but it's fundamentally a different skill. Writing for design is often quieter, humbler and more sensible but it's equally often deeper, truer and more essential,” he says.

“I love Writing for Design because it's so often the writing of everyday life. It's not about shouted interruption or artificial drama, it's a chance to make small, meaningful improvements to an ordinary day. And the pandemic has just demonstrated how important those little improvements can be. Writing for Design is the 'key work' of the communications industry.”

We’re looking to give great copywriting the recognition it deserves in the 2021 D&AD Awards with the Writing for Advertising and Writing for Design categories. More information about entering here.

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