Copywriting: the secret savior of creativity
Creatives find that as budgets squeeze, copy is the first item on the chopping block. The uplift in value of great copy is hard to quantify, but what are the costs of settling for mediocre writing? For The Drum's Creativity in Focus Deep Dive, Nick Horne, creative director at True Digital, investigates.
True Digital on the required creativity for copywriting. / Alessio Fiorentino via Unsplash
Over recent years the art of copywriting has been ransacked. It’s often one of the first lines to get cut from a budget. With the diversification of media and the need for marketers to cut their cloth, the phrase that strikes despair into the hearts of copywriters across the land is: 'we’ll pick up the copy internally.'
Am I pitching copywriters against marketers? Absolutely not. They should be the best of friends. Great copy helps great brands get ahead of the crowd.
Sticks and stones
While competitors have their shop windows, filled with words that at worst just fill a box or at best simply inform rather than delight, the ability to not just stand out but to stand for something is massive.
Discerning consumers are more than ever looking to make decisions on where their spend goes based on what brands stand for, what they say, and what they believe. Words are the opportunity to create that differentiation.
It’s no coincidence that the brands making moves that are genuinely building success and longevity are synonymous with great tone of voice. Oatly, Patagonia and Monzo could almost be said to be more recognizable by their words than anything else, with the exception maybe of that Monzo coral.
Who writes good copy?
These brands' every touchpoint (online, offline, point of sale, over the phone) is nailed on every time and the value attached to that is almost unquantifiable.
Could they have written it themselves? Yes. In fact, such is the up-front work of copywriters on tone of voice that often non-copywriters do pick up the odd line. God knows, maybe it writes itself. But that, there, is the value. Invest in copy well and early and it will keep on paying you back for years to come. Especially when you consider the lifespan of, for example, a website. Even after that lifespan, content will likely be migrated, so those words may still be paying for themselves in 20 years.
Showing the worth of unquantifiable values
That’s where the conversation opens out to the rest of the creative discipline. In recent years we have chased productization of the creative industries. We’ve had to prove the value of what you buy off the shelf. Creativity has suffered because creativity isn’t about proving the value of hours logged, words written, seconds of edited footage, or asset numbers.
Here's an example from beyond the copy realm. In the early 2000s, Wieden & Kennedy’s great turnaround of the Honda brand was built on trust: trust from a great client, investing in and paying for weeks of creative and strategic exploration to create the famous 'Book Of Dreams'.
The client could have been hauled over the coals for paying for a product the public would never see, but as Russell Davies outlines in his write-up, the Book Of Dreams became the blueprint for many ads, lines of copy, and films. It was not only paid back in assets, but also in an increase in ROI, creating growth in market share while reducing media spend.
The value of creativity has always been about investment. Creativity is the ultimate embodiment of ROI. Creativity should be the multiplier of value, the means by which we unlock untapped potential value. Anyone can go to Fiverr or 'pick up the copy, themselves but it shouldn’t be about what you can get it for, but what it can do for you.
While the world of marketing is transfixed on quantifying unit values, there maintains a massive opportunity for the brands who dare to really steal a lead.
Right now, for 99% of brands, great copy is the biggest opportunity to raise their game. In doing so, copywriting will be the point in case to once again prove the value of wider creative disciplines.
It’s up to us creatives to support and pay back those clients when they land at our door; to follow the lead copy masters at Oatly, Patagonia, Monzo and more. They show us that it’s not about being precious, or throwing your toys out of the pram every time we get reigned in. It’s about grasping the opportunity to prove our unquantifiable value every time we are given the opportunity to run free.
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19 years ago true was founded with the aim of being different; straight-talking, to the point, focussed on delivering long-term growth, not through chat, but through action. Creating work that was true to our clients’ needs, true to their customers’ needs and true to our own expectations.Find out more