Even though we truly love what we do, it turns out most copywriters feel under appreciated and rather unhappy. At least this is the picture the DMA paints in Why your copywriter looks sad, its report of the recent copywriting census results. And what a bleak picture that is.
But let’s take a closer look. So why does your copywriter look sad, according to the results of the census?
Because the briefs aren’t clear. Because the client destroyed the copy. Because we need better insights. Because that’s an unworkable deadline. Because the client isn’t brave enough. Because there’s a lack of respect for what we do.
All rightful reasons? Perhaps (most certainly). The demand for ‘more content, faster’ is undeniably growing. Deadlines and budgets are indeed getting tighter and clients are as risk-averse as they’ve ever been. And then there’s the upsetting misconception that it’s just words, and anyone can write words.
But the most interesting part of DMA’s e-book is the sad but ever so charmingly presented pen portrait of a typical writer. The liquid breakfast. The bland Pret lunch. The alcohol. The unfinished novel. Some tears. It’s a beautifully crafted bit of storytelling – but wait, haven’t we heard this one before?
I don’t think it’s far from how the industry has portrayed copywriters for decades. Yes, the glitz, glamour and former glory have been stripped away but some hints of the sad, ‘tortured genius’ type of persona are still there. I may not have been in the industry for decades, but I find this rather masculine persona especially alienating to young female writers like me. (I haven’t met any Don Drapers yet. Or Peggy Olsons for that matter.) No doubt it’s based on some truth and it serves a purpose. But it’s a tired narrative. Besides, is this really the story we want to keep telling about ourselves?
As skillful storytellers we can sense when it’s time to change the narrative. And we can craft a better story. Don’t most copywriters seem like perfectly happy positive people? And isn’t it clear, at least to our industry, that there is now a greater need than ever for expertly crafted copy, with more content needed to fill more spaces and channels than ever before?
The census reveals that more than half find the lack of respect for copywriting to be their biggest barrier to good work. Most of us also want more time to craft great copy that works. And some feel that their copy is sucked dry of creativity by rounds and rounds of amends or insufficient insight.
Sulking isn’t going to help improve the conditions we’re not happy about. Neither is hanging on to nostalgia for some golden era gone by. But maybe we can redefine what copywriting is today, rather than keep regurgitating what it is not. And maybe we can work with clients, within our agencies and with each other to reshape the perceived value of copywriting, and to re-evaluate the skills and conditions that are needed to create work that we can consistently be proud of. And maybe – just maybe – we can even hope the next census is titled something like ‘Why your copywriter isn’t such a grump after all’.
Is copywriting dead? Who knows. Shouldn’t we be asking questions about its long overdue renaissance instead?