“No one is going to read all that copy, are they?” This is a stance taken by most marketers, which is why 95 per cent of ads in India (both in print and on television) continue to be dependant on strong imagery and visuals, rather than strong copy.
In the category of strong copy, the short copy ads -- which are set in poster style and contain only a few words or syllables, accompanied by larger than life images -- rule supreme. Consequently, good copywriters are hard to find these days and long copy is fast disappearing from the advertising landscape. And, sadly, copywriters who can transverse between two languages (English and Hindi) are a diminishing species.
Says Preeti Vyas Gianetti, Chairperson, Vyas Gianetti Creatives, “So many advertisements virtually say little more than ‘Hello —our product is wonderful — Good-bye’. That’s where the entire deal ends. In years gone by, you had people like Alok Nanda, Alyque Padamsee and Mohammad Khan who could write splendid copy, and consequently consumers took notice of each and every syllable used. What’s happening today is that you cannot remember a single ad where the copy stands dominant and the words are meaningful or distinct. Good copywriters are indeed hard to find.”
Gianetti says that advertisers on their part shrug away from compelling copy and continue to invest in imagery. “The advertising industry is facing a downturn where good copywriters are fast disappearing, and the spotlight remains on art and visuals. When you have a situation where work from copywriters is devalued and underplayed, and most campaigns are visual led, it is but natural that there would be a dearth of copywriting talent,” she says.
In a similar vein, KS Chakravarthy ‘Chax’, National Creative Director, Rediffusion DY&R, asserts that in yesteryear, there were copywriters who would excel in both English and Hindi. “Today you have South Mumbai accented copywriters who cannot do justice to either of the languages. And a South Mumbai accented yuppie writer is no good because most of the time you don’t get compelling copy, either in English or in Hindi. What you need is a whole new crop of copywriters who do as much justice to the brand as the last generation of compelling writers. It would be an advantage if they can think and write in both languages. While one view is that marketers are not seeking compelling copy, I think that it’s the lack of sufficient talent in copy that accounts for so many visual-led campaigns,” observes Chax.
Anup Chitnis of the art director-copywriter Chitnis-D Silva combo at O&M, however simply disagrees with the views expressed by Chax and Gianetti. “I reject the notion that there is a dearth of talent on the copy scene. Today’s copywriters are guys who make an impact in a fleeting moment, they make you stop in your tracks and look at the ad, and in an instant say all that needs to be said about the brand. Copywriters today function differently from their counterparts of yesteryear. It would be unfair to compare them. You now have copywriters who have adopted the cluttered media environment by saying everything in a few words,” asserts Chitnis.
As Chitnis sums it up, “The attempt is to be brief and yet furnish compelling copy.”
Copy relies on intellectual processing. It has to, since converting the squiggles on a page (which is, after all, what printing is) or the random noises coming from someone's mouth (which is, after all, what speaking is) must be translated into meaning in the reader's or listener's mind. Ads today may be brief and informative. But the issue is: Are they compelling enough? The jury is still out.