Content Killed the Copywriter: When Copywriting Went Rogue
There was a time when copywriting was a bold headline followed by a descriptive paragraph — the “traditional ad” we now call it — a formulaic template where catchy copy could be quickly and painlessly flowed into design. Today, it’s different. Mad Men copywriting is a thing of the past. Copy departments have evolved. Copywriters once hired for their one-liners are now leading content creation — crafting compelling narratives across a saturated landscape of diverse mediums, newsjacking via social platforms to increase coveted impressions, and sometimes even flowing in their own copy via fancy Adobe software. And the words themselves? Paragraphs are tighter, posts are timelier, and headlines are results-driven email preheaders. Nothing is cut and dry and everything needs a strategy.
Seemingly overnight my LinkedIn feed was inundated with “Content Specialists” and “Social Media Managers.” My copywriting colleagues started dabbling in dark arts — producing, consulting, curating, and even coding content. As technology became more advanced, product stories became more complex. Product managers still knew their offerings as well as before, but began to turn to marketing content experts to make sense of all the information.
The era of information overload requires “content experts,” or damn good editors. Copywriters wear a lot of hats these days. B2B stories can be more challenging but, in many ways, the work is more rewarding. You can’t just be witty, you must also be accurate. Copywriting is no longer a man in a cloud of smoke rattling off award-winning idioms. Don Draper never wrote for Pied Piper.
So yeah, copy still exists, it’s just rarely thought of as such. Because you don’t often see today’s copy. It’s behind the scenes — the sometimes subtle blueprint of everything that happens here. And that’s how it should be. At least Elmore Leonard, author of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, thought so. “If it sounds like writing … rewrite it,” he said. That is to say, if your words start getting in the way of the message — the strategic insight — you’re doing it wrong. Today’s advertising is less cutesy and more compelling. We’ve doubled down on strategy and analytics and that drives how we frame clients’ complex-but-fascinating products and services.
Content of any kind should adhere to Leonard’s core principle. Just as novels are meant to transport readers, branded content should make you wish you were somewhere else — staying at that Airbnb loft, lathering yourself in Old Spice suds or, in the case of the ever-growing B2B markets, downloading more data faster using the cloud.
Adcetera understands all that. We never just sit down and write. We research. We interview experts. We ask questions. We ask more questions. And, once we’ve asked enough questions, we develop a strategy — an insight. To consolidate the process and guarantee a sound strategy in everything we produce, we combined forces. The Great Merge, we call it (okay, it’s just me that calls it that): the day copywriting and strategy became one, under one big umbrella. If for nothing else, the merge acts as a reminder to ensure every concept, every design, every sentence provides valuable content. Content is always at the core, and we’re on the forefront.
Image source: socialmarketing.guru