"Copy is dead" – AMV BBDO's Tim Riley on why now is the best possible time to be a copywriter

The Drum has teamed with Creative Circle to make some of the content of their publication more widely available online. In the latest of a series of extracts, Tim Riley, head of copy, AMV BBDO, discusses why there has never been a better time to be a copywriter.

Copy is dead. Everyone says so. It’s all about visuals now. Sad, but there it is.

A couple of months ago, I was one of the judges for the writing section of a rival awards scheme. (Okay, it was D&AD.)

Once upon a time, it would have taken us the best part of a day to read through all the long copy ads. This time there were so few that it only took us an hour. We shook our heads sadly and pondered the death of the copywriter’s art. I think we all thought we’d be finished by lunchtime.

‘Okay’ said our supervisor, ‘now there’s just the TV and the online work to look at.’ Well. We finally staggered out of there at 8.15. The last jury to leave. We judged commercials, training films, branded content, all sorts. The other juries got to go out for a nice lunch. We had pizzas delivered so that we didn’t have to stop what we were doing, even for a minute. ‘Count yourselves lucky’ said our supervisor, ‘we could have given you Writing for Digital and Writing for Direct to judge as well.’

So, ‘copy’ may be dead. But as far as I can see, if you’re a copywriter, things couldn’t be better. There are more opportunities than ever before.

Kenny Powers: Motherfucking CEO may not fit the traditional definition of fine copywriting, but fine copywriting it is. (And it shows that, for the right client, you can write things that live beyond the reach of Clearcast and the ASA.)

There’s TV. Creative Circle has always had an award for Best Written Commercial. D&AD has only recently made TV writing a category in its own right. And when you’re asked to judge TV purely on the writing, it reminds you what makes a lot of great ads great. The words.

‘He waits, that’s what he does.’

‘I have conquered worlds.’

‘A garden of pure ideology.’

‘Then they smash them all to bits.’

Surfer, Double Life, 1984 and Martians all looked great. But I’d argue it’s the words that stick in your head. Those are the bits we repeat to each other.

Then there’s Twitter. What a brilliant medium. And one that has huge potential for advertising if it’s used well. There’s nothing like it for instant feedback. You feel terrible when a tweet gets little or no response. It’s like telling a joke and having it fall flat. But that’s okay – you just write another. One tweet we wrote for a client earlier this year was retweeted 1400 times. That’s not a bad piece of feedback. (It’s certainly more fun than Millward Brown.)

And, finally, if you don’t fancy writing in any of these media, there’s one other thing you could try. A long copy press ad. There’s never been less competition.

You can order a copy of the 2012 Creative Circle Magazine here.

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