“If it’s done well, then you shouldn’t notice it”
A beautiful statement that really captures one of the greatest aspects of copywriting. It also really captures why I hate having to explain to people what I do for a living.
When the value of copywriting lies in not being noticed, it becomes really hard to get people to notice its value. Meaning, that when I first mention that I work in advertising as a copywriter, people often conjure images of me scrolling through the internet shouting “no you can’t use that”.
Even once I point out the slight spelling difference between copyrighter and copywriter, their next go-to is that I’m a wannabe Don Draper, drinking scotch, cranking out catchy taglines, and Ad Libbing about carnival equipment.
And maybe that’s how I first saw myself as well...
But now, when I look at the many open tabs on my laptop, I can’t help but find myself wondering what the copywriters of old, ripped straight from the TV screen, would think about what copywriting is now.
I’m sure they would be flabbergasted to hear me say “Okay one second, let me just check to see if this hashtag has been used before”. Not only because they’d have no clue what a hashtag is, but even after explaining how we finally found a use for that weird symbol on the keyboard; they’d surely find it horrifying to discover that we're no longer competing for attention against similar competitors. Instead we’re fighting for attention against the rest of the world.
Your words can travel like never before. They’re no longer constrained by borders or, more importantly, by media budget.
Some may argue that copywriting is copywriting, no matter where you do it. But I’d argue that digital is a media that is so unfathomably diverse within itself, that copywriters have never before needed such a diverse skill set. Never before has each platform been so unique, with its own community, its own tone of voice, and even its own language.
Previously what separated great copy from the bad was how you crafted a unique tone of voice. Now that singular style has to adapt and splinter into so many specific styles; from corporate emails to instagram replies, all while still retaining that uniqueness.
Today if brands and people want to be a part of conversations, they need to be able to understand and speak in the languages that exist there.
And well… they want to be part of those conversations.
You talking to me?
Being in these conversations means that as a brand, you’re more connected and accessible to your audience than ever. And while the decipherable nature of data has given us the ability to target exactly who we want, when we want; It also works the other way.
Now everything that's written becomes part of your brand, immortalised online.
It doesn’t matter if you're a company of thousands, a start-up of 20, or a single person, it's important that you have an understanding of the bigger picture.
That you’re aware of your overarching direction, and not just living within the current campaign.
Because the moment you change your tune, get ready for that gotcha moment as someone drags up a tweet from the previous year where you said something that would appear the opposite, losing all of your credibility.
On the flipside, this also means that everything you write is an opportunity to develop and build your brand. Be it a Linkedin post, a case study, or an email, this content has the ability to illustrate who you are, and what you believe.
But now because everything lasts forever, it’s getting even more cluttered.
One aspect that persists through the entire evolution of copywriting, that holds the same importance now as it did in its adolescent phase, is the constant struggle for attention. Exasperated by digitals ability to never forget, you're no longer competing with this year's christmas ads, but every adorable penguin and jumping dog from the last 5 years.
It’s a market flooded with information, which if you choose to only be a part time visitor, you will find yourself obscured by content creators. People whose entire career is focused on capturing online attention. Building and nurturing their audiences constantly and consistently, with an openness and accessibility that would terrify George Orwell.
The final challenge
The final challenge is how quickly the world we’re trying to speak to evolves and changes. The reality is that probably by the time I have typed this, proofread and published, it’s completely wrong...