where have all of the creative advertising copywriters gone?

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Answered by: Bob, An Expert in the Ad Agencies Category
Where have all the great creative advertising copywriters gone?

They've been swept away in a tsunami of bloggers and tweeters and so-called social media gurus. After all, writing is just words and sentences – right? It's not like creating sizzling graphic images with computer wizardry. Wrong! Graphic artists are a dime a dozen, but creative advertising copywriters are a rare breed.

The horror, the horror! Oh E. B. White, roll over in your grave!

I've had writing talent since I was in grade school. I was the kid who won the poetry and essay contests. But I wasn't a writer. Not until I met up with a couple of seasoned advertising (Chicago, New York) writers who hired me and trained me. They were published writers, legitimate, so to speak, who learned, after a while, that there was a lot more money in ad copy than first novels or poetry books.      

They made me write headlines and body copy over and over and over again until I got it right. Until every headline and subhead was interesting and evocative and could seduce the reader into reading more. My copy was rejected until every sentence was reduced to its essence, like a fine French Consomme, without an extra word, without a clumsy segue. They taught me the craft of great writing.

We're not talking novels and poetry here – we're talking succinct and creative copy for financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, software companies, hospitals, retailers, travel agencies, real estate agencies, health and fitness institutions, even tattoo parlors and mom and pop stores.

Great communication is great communication. It doesn't matter if it's a blog, a tweet, web content, TV and radio scripts, white papers, or annual reports. What matters is that the message grabs the reader's attention, and creates a call to action. Keywords need not be an excuse for dull copy. The limitations of key word writing should be a driving force for creative copywriters.

As a young copywriter, my first brochure (my first big job) was for a software company. I was carefully coached by my copy chief to make sure it was professional and acceptable. I nervously handed it to the clients and sat with sweaty palms as they read it.

“It's too folksy for us,” they said, shattering my dreams and hopes of ever becoming a copywriter. I returned to the office with head hanging down. My boss drove it personally back to the client's office and politely slapped them on their wrists for gunning it down. They didn't let the professionals do their job, he told them. It was folksy, he told them, because it was conversational – making what they offered their customers both understandable and interesting.

My old boss was right. He knew that the software clients wanted their company to be written about in loftier terms than my “folksy” copy. He also knew that, when the clients explained their company to friends and others at a cocktail party, they wouldn’t use lofty language at all – they'd explain themselves in clear, conversational terms.

Writing conversationally is craftsmanship. It's an art form. If you want to be a great writer, write for the cocktail party.

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