Copywriting: the how-long-is-a-piece-of-string theory

Copywriting is the part of the advertising process most subject to change. Here’s why:

1. Everyone has done some writing at some point in their lives. This means that everyone involved in the process feels somewhat qualified to pass judgement on a piece of writing. It doesn’t matter that the last thing they wrote was an essay about their summer holidays, they know what they like and they’ll want that reflected in the lines. And whether it’s the planner, CD, CEO, junior client, senior client, tea lady or client’s chauffeur’s mistress, many people thinks their opinion on writing is as valid as the professional writer’s.

2. Copywriting is cheap. If you need to reshoot or spend another fifty grand on a different music track, there are definite and obvious limitations, most of them financial. But copywriting costs as much as a pen, some paper and a living copywriter (the price of a Starbuck’s white chocolate and raspberry muffin and an americano), so you can go again and again and again at no extra cost. I know hours are logged on time sheets and all that, but that happens in every process; copywriting is the most cost-effective part of the advertising process, so lets have some more.

3. Copywriting looks quick. Admittedly, you may need some time to set a line or two, but compared to the creation of the brief, approval of the work, production of the work and post-production of the work, coming up with lines can appear to be a very speedy process. Although the lead up can take ages, the actually writing of a line only really takes about ten seconds, so if you need 100 lines you might only need twenty minutes – or so many people seem to think.

4. People don’t like making decisions. I’ve been called into situations where literally hundreds of lines have already gone off to the client with no success. This is almost certainly because it’s far easier to ask for more than it is to finally make a choice, then take responsibility for that choice. Far easier to say that you asked them to keep going but nothing quite worked, which is why you ended up with ‘EuroMegaBank: moving forward into the future’.

And you’re never allowed any help, like getting a comedy writer in for a funny script or a newspaper columnist for a short, witty argument. That keeps it all as quick and cheap as it can possibly be.