Believe it or not, there was a time in our industry when copywriters ruled. Tasked with leading the creative process, they would craft headlines based on brilliant strategies and slip them under the office doors of their art director cohorts. Only then would their second class colleagues embark on the relatively easy task of “coming up with a visual.”
My, how times have changed. Today the tables have not only turned–they’ve been upended –as our industry seems to now be ruled more and more by The Visual. Nowhere is this more evident than in today’s digital marketing mix.
When a client requests that we “increase the branding” in our digital communications, how often do they mean simply make the logo bigger or tweak the work to feature more visual elements of the brand?
And yet, how important is “language as brand equity” in the CPG space? How important are the taglines that help define and differentiate some of our favorite grocery brands? Lines like “It’s not delivery. It’s DiGiorno.” for DiGiorno Pizza? Or “Tastes so good, cats ask for it by name.” for Meow Mix Brand Cat Food? How important is the brand personality communicated through storytelling in the case of Dos Equis’ lauded “Stay thirsty, my friends?” campaign?
In the new digital landscape, a fixation on “look” and functionality and an almost phobic preoccupation with the production realities of “banner specs,” “k size,” etc., can too often push the role of the copywriter into something resembling that of an interior decorator. You may have heard it yourself – the digital designer turns to the copywriter and says something like “You have this much real estate, now help me fill it.”
To sum it up, too often copy gets the short shrift in the digital space. In the march to design the most elegant, coolest or edgiest web presences, too often designers will work up their designs, then tap the copywriter on the shoulder and say “Now, it’s your turn.”
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. And it’s impossible to deny the momentum of media like on-line video, gaming and apps that can often run thin on the written word. But if the oft repeated tenant is true that “content is king” in the digital space, let’s remember that the best marketing is still about storytelling. And that it’s pretty hard to tell a story without a narrative.
So let’s give copy its due and admit that copy content, tone and “language” can be just as important as art direction and design in defining a brand’s personality and setting it apart from the competition. Copywriters, art directors and digital designers should be working collaboratively at the outset of their digital assignments, with copywriters occupying an equally important seat at the table.