Writer Wronged

Recently, I read a blog on the affect SEO and technology have had on the quality of writing in advertising. In short, it said that there IS no quality writing in advertising anymore. Whew. That’s quite a statement. I wish it wasn’t true.

In the past 20 years, the business of advertising has changed completely. Thanks to technology, we have less time to get things done than ever before. Clients expect advertisements, radio spots and even brochures to be done in a day – because, technically, it’s possible.

Twenty-five years ago copy had to be approved by the client, then sent out to be typeset. When the type came back, the art director put the paragraphs into layout and did any finessing that had to be done. This meant that once copy was approved by the client, it was over. There was no changing it. It had been “set.”

There was something beautiful about typesetting. Every letter was put in its place just as carefully as every word had been chosen.
One of the biggest problems in our business these days is that nothing is EVER “set.” Because we can make changes in real time on our computers, clients don’t even seriously notice the copy until the piece is ready to go to press. THEN, they look at it. And they want changes. Changes that affect the layout and the quality of the advertisement.

Are those last minute changes up to the same standard as the writing that originally went into the piece? Rarely. The ad is due. The craft suffers. Writers have been wronged.

Then, there’s online writing. Website copy is far more about including the correct words and phrases for the search engines than it is about crafting well-written prose for the reader. And when you throw fresh content up each and every day, let’s face it, it’s not always going to be stellar.

The good news is, the most powerful part of advertising is still and always will be the IDEA. The idea – or the concept – is the way we communicate that single message that sets you apart from our competitors. The concept is the foundation around which every word and design in a campaign is built. And we advertising folks EXCEL at concept. The concept is “Mayhem” for Allstate. It’s “Logistics” for UPS. It’s “Cookie vs. Cream” for Oreo. You get the idea.

So while the changes in this industry don’t excite me as a writer, I’m heartened as a creative director. Concept is more important than ever before. The BIG IDEA still rules – on the web, in magazines, on the radio, on your mobile and on TV. And, for that, this writer is grateful.