Is copywriting on its way out?

Creative Heads say in this digital age copywriting is about keywords and real-time content but human creativity still triumphs and one needs to adapt with the evolving media environment

by Noel Dsouza
Published - Aug 1, 2019 8:37 AM Updated: Aug 1, 2019 8:37 AM
Copywriting

In this ever-changing, fast-paced world, creatives are being continuously re-worked. This age of social media demands that time is of essence and those who can churn out a copy in a moment’s notice will turn out to be the winner. 

From copywriting, it has become necessary writing, say industry experts. A copywriter needs time to create content that leaves an impact, a punchy tagline that inspires the customer and creates a desire to purchase a product or use a service. But now it often doesn't seem sustainable to grant creatives the full authority over ideas. 

Creating a copy in a short span also strikes out traditional copywriting rules of ‘waiting and giving the copy time to evolve’. So, what exactly needs to be done to save and revive copywriting? We, at exchange4media, spoke to creative heads from the ad industry to share their viewpoint on the same. 

According to Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, 82.5 Communications, The Ogilvy Group, today the success of copy is being judged by different criteria. Often, the more 'clickbaity' a line is, the more successful it is deemed. 

“It is about packing in as many keywords as possible, grammar be damned... crafting... be damned. A lot of text we read online is generated by AI, which is well suited to the exercise of increasing the word 'value' of text almost as in a game of Scrabble. So we are being replaced, at least partially, with bots. But human creativity still triumphs over Artificial Intelligence. So higher-order writing is something that will continue to be our preserve. We should leave humdrum writing work to AI but hone our skills so that we are still sought out for the most important creative writing jobs,” Chattopadhyay said.

With the rise of digital content, clients want agencies to churn out content fast. This can lead to sloppy copies and irreversible mistakes which can ruin a brand’s image. The power is also shifting from the one who actually writes the ad to those who should only be helping to shape the idea. Plus, we are not far from AI-generated content, opine others.

Copy is everywhere, says Anindya Banerjee, ECD, FCB Ulka. “Copy existed when radio wasn’t there. Copy existed when TV appeared. And copy will continue to exist through the digital age.”

“While our attention spans have become shorter and shorter, copy continues to flourish. In the digital banners you see, the witty Twitter feed or the stylish Instagram post, copy is everywhere. And it is slowly adapting with the changing times. Fighting for attention in an overcrowded world of information, entertainment and marketing, the copy remains an invaluable asset to any business,” Banerjee added.
 
Along with a brand idea, which is generated by a copywriter, a brand also needs lots of digital real-time content. 

Agnello Dias, Creative Chairman, Dentsu Aegis Network India, is of the opinion that traditional writing on digital today is actually not copy, it is visual. “A few keywords put in the appropriate places make it appear like there is copy. Those words actually work as pictures. One doesn't really need to read them strung into a sentence. One just 'sees' them, gets the broad idea and moves on. I would call it hyper-captioning rather than copywriting. Besides, digital is emotionally transient and digital consumers are easily forgiving of mistakes in a copy or a bad copy because it comes with the perception of an extremely short life span,” says Dias. 

Talking about the people who are stepping in to fill this gap of digital content, Raghu Bhat, Founder & Copywriter, Scarecrow M&C Saatchi, says: “There are no clearly defined rules to judge 'great copywriting for the digital medium'. This leads to a lot of variance in quality. But brands are ok with this. They know that digital presence is important and as long as there is no social media backlash arising from digital activity, they are happy.”
Also, there are new expectations from digital copywriting. “A client wants to amplify his OOH campaigns through social media. That requires a mix of analysis and creativity which a conventional copywriter may not able to decipher,” Bhat added.

However, Oindrila Roy, Head of Strategy, India, Essence, is of the opinion that the art of copywriting is not dying but evolving alongside media. "We have now moved from memorable and eye-catching copy to thumb-stopping visuals. The focus has shifted to making ideas come alive through the power of visuals. What we have lost in the beauty of wordsmithing, we have gained in the sphere of aesthetics," said Roy.

With mobile being the device of choice, communication is served in a 5-inch screen. "The average consumer's attention span has reduced to 1.7 seconds. The need of the hour is to get a clear message across with no scope for processing beyond the obvious. This too has led to some erosion of crafting and over time, possibly the erosion of crafting skills as we know it," Roy added.

"It is indeed a loss for people like us who joined advertising for the love of the printed word, but we all have to evolve with the changing times and evolving media environment," she said. 

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