Writing for ads used to mean writing for TV and radio, crafting headlines for print ads and pairing up with a designer to punch up a piece or two. The copywriter’s job was to write. Plain and simple.
Within the past decade or so, however, the role of the copywriter has shifted and expanded. In a multi-faceted media landscape, the mission of an agency or company is to create content that resonates with a consumer, engages with them, tells them a story. Sure, the copywriter’s role in all of this still very much involves writing in a traditional sense, but that isn’t all it requires anymore.
What is the copywriter’s role now?
Generating Ideas vs. Headlines
When working on any campaign, the modern copywriter should start and end with the consumer in mind. We have to think like directors, technologists, architects and, yes, even designers. Where it might have been one person’s job to think about the budget limitations of a guerilla tactic or the data collected from a microsite, those duties are now in the copywriter’s wheelhouse.
As with many other aspects of modern advertising, our creative teams and the responsibilities of team members are blending. The goal is no longer to write engaging copy that gets noticed. Ad creation has evolved into developing and executing ideas that inspire and engage, whether that is through what is considered an “ad” or takes the form of something less formal and recognizable.
In many traditional agencies or in-house marketing departments, there were typically two separate roles that existed: writer + designer. The writer wrote the words that the designer then laid out, illustrated and brought to life through visual means.
We’ve seen how this partnership has paid off for many of the world’s greatest campaigns. There is no doubt that it is a functional, harmonious marriage that produces great work. However, if we want to take advertising to new heights and bring revolutionary, authentic ideas into the world, we must once again blur the lines in our teams.
A writer can and should be involved throughout the design phase, just as a designer should weigh in on the strategy and tone of the ads messaging. As many books and professionals have pointed out in recent years, the copywriter must develop an eye for design, be comfortable critiquing visual work and work in tandem with other creators to help bring the vision to life. Hand-offs produce work that isn’t complete. Continuity, endless collaboration and diverse perspectives produce work that resonates with the even more hyper-localized tribes we market to these days.
Focus on Customer Journey (Beyond First Touchpoint)
Much of the marketing and promotional pieces of content created by today’s brands tend to focus on making a good first impression with their audience. We see the catchy billboards and TV spots, and we think, “that’s cool advertising.” Expert marketers know that the real value of great marketing comes from nurturing audiences through the customer journey in small, incremental ways.
Copywriters today are writing body copy for email newsletters, product descriptions on Amazon and directional signage in theme parks. There are thousands of opportunities to engage with customers beyond the bigger, flashier ads. At a granular level, a great writer can be more effective and leave more of an impact on someone in a dozen tiny moments than in one big moment.
This is how the modern role has evolved. It’s exciting and, at some level, feels much more natural than in the past. We’re writing for the real world and becoming part of the conversation instead of hiding behind the fourth wall listing off features to the masses.
If you’re interested to learn more or would like to connect with us to discuss where you stand in your marketing efforts, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a comment on social or tweet at us @toucanads.
Toucan Advertising is a New Orleans advertising agency.