Can copywriters actually write? Yes - books.

Cooper Stevenson at the School of communication Arts 2.0 wanders down the path of Ogilvy and French bemoaning the death of long copy. Today, copy is merely headlines, palatable information, a catchy phrase, a witticism...

We are known as "creatives," an adjective someone somewhere along the line took the liberty of pluralizing and turning into a noun. This masturbatory self-anointment is wholly unsurprising when all of Ad-Land seems hell-bent on bastardizing the last remnants of grammar and syntax left in this world. Advertising is supposed to speak to the person it is selling to, but does it need to flounce grammar altogether? Consider the latest Oxford Landing Estates posters found in London's hair-balled digestive tract: "Nice one sunshine." They included a full-stop at the end, would a comma, denoting that 'sunshine' is the subject of the clause, mean the reader's attention will drop the second they encounter it? I don't recall anyone reading a tube poster then taking a terrified leap in front of a train screaming "Oh-fuck! Syntax!"

Bless the angry young ad students, advertising needs a fresh injection of antagonists every year to keep from going stale. The business will feed the ones who care about the craft as well as the ideas. Some may say that "copywriter", "art director" and the skill sets with these titles are remnants of a bygone era, no longer needed in the fast-paced world of twitter and TV. But copywriters, and art directors too, can't help themselves. We write. If we can't do it in advertising, then we'll do it in books. The stereotype of the creative who spends nights working on "the great American novel" or screenplay has never been truer than today. Great advertising tells stories, they live in us before they hit the paper, as words, as paint, as photographs or even as cinematic still-shot masterpieces.

This brings me to Ty Hutchinson, who recently released his first book, "Chop Suey", but moonlights as a copywriter by day at Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Ty has an interview series with other "Mad Authors" as he dubs it over at his blog. Here's an interview with Marc Oromaner who wrote The Myth of Lost. He's also interviewed Kelly Simmons, author of "Bird House" and "Standing still".

You can view the full Neil French ad that illustrates this post : "Nobody reads long copy anymore. Here's why."

about the author

Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Comments (4)

  • AnonymousCoward's picture
    AnonymousCoward (not verified)

    Don't forget Kathy Hepinstall! She's got like a dozen books on Amazon and writes great ads too!

    Jun 08, 2011
  • Mark Trueblood's picture
    Mark Trueblood (not verified)

    The rumors are true: Some ad copywriters can actually write. Most of the copywriters I know have a writing outlet outside of advertising. The stereotype is that we're all frustrated novelists or screenwriters, but I don't think that's true. We're also frustrated poets, graphic novelists, stand-up comedians, and video game developers.

    But sometimes we actually see the fruits of our efforts come into being. Three years ago I had the good fortune to work with a photographer and graphic designers on a book. I also get kudos frequently for my writing in various social media outlets.

    I have no doubt that a lot of ad copywriters are still passionate about the written word. However, I wonder if it's appreciated in our industry anymore. (Cue the smallest violin...)

    Jun 08, 2011
  • rich siegel's picture
    rich siegel (not verified)


    Jun 09, 2011