Will Alexa be the saviour of the copywriting industry?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Will voice interaction reinvigorate the market for professional copywriters?

I recently attended a conference where JustEat (the foodie app folks) became the latest brand to unveil their new Voice App companion for Alexa, Amazon's intelligent personal assistant. We’re seeing more and more brands embracing voice technology every day, keen to be an early adopter and tap into the changes in consumer behaviour that Alexa and other voice assistants are driving. It seems no one needs convincing that voice is the future interface of choice for human-computer interactions.

If that is really the case, it’s going to be a boom time for experienced copywriters – a welcome development given the recent history of the industry. While the growth in content marketing created a greater demand for copywriters, the value of their services has been driven down: in short, copywriting as a trade has suffered commoditisation. While search engines valued quantity of content over quality, brands were encouraged to produce reams of content that serviced SEO and keyword demands but had little else to recommend it.

Worth a thousand words?

Many agencies have actually seen a surprising decline in copywriting requirements. With marketing budgets switching to digital and mobile, brands’ focus has often been on visual assets and content. Social content driven by video occasionally requires scripting but that's a highly specialist skill. Even user interface design has standardised labeling.

Except for highly technical specialist writers, it’s been very difficult for brand agencies and digital agencies to maintain the rates of copywriters as a result, a phenomenon we’ve also seen in relation to designers and, particularly, photographers.

However, a variety of developments are converging to bring copywriting back into the light as one of the marketing industries most valuable skill-sets.

With leading search engines and social networks continuously tweaking their algorithms and AI to promote quality content, brands are learning that content produced primarily for the purpose of seducing search engines is not necessarily so great at engaging real people. There is a growing recognition that while SEO-driven online content might have a short-term impact on performance, it actually has a longer-term detrimental impact on engagement and consumer opinion of a brand. Having validation around the quality of content is now far more important than having vast quantities of content online.

The value of the professional copywriter is suddenly on the up again.

Find your voice, but watch your tone

The other side of this is the growth of voice assistants and the use of voice as a search method. As touched on earlier, Voice is rapidly becoming a common way for human beings to interface with computers. As such, the questions that we ask and the responses that we get are all verbal. For brands, this means choosing the right words and finding the right tone of voice has never been more crucial. It is likely, therefore, that many brands will require a tremendous amount of input from experienced writers to fully exploit the opportunities of voice technology.

Because the interactions we are having with technology are now so complex, in recent years we’ve seen design become much more user-centric than ever before. It’ll be interesting to see if we fast forward ten years, whether there will be a clear distinction between design-based user experience and voice-based user experience.

If the future truly is all about Voice, then copywriters will find themselves back in vogue writing scripts and training people to deliver them. At AgencyUK, we've always held the belief that tone of voice sits at the heart of any brand: our creative director is a prize-winning novelist. And if I'm right, our industry will have gone full circle, waking up to realise that what brands say is every bit as important as how they look.

Saman Mansourpour is managing director of AgencyUK

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