by Sandra Eichner, Creative Director at ViTRO
On my first day of German Literature and Linguistics Studies at university many a year ago, our counselor told the class that we’ll never get a job in this field.
Fast forward around 5 years and every CD told us agency writers that we’d pretty much be jobless and starving in the streets if we didn’t make the switch from traditional to digital copywriting, AKA from being the next Neil French to being the next wordsmith to hone unforgettable lines like “Click here."
And today, the old writer’s dream of creating award-winning long copy ads (not to mention that novel or screenplay every CW seems to have in them) has shrunk to aspirations of writing THE most LOL-worthy and re-shared tweets and hashtags. But hey, does that mean y’all are wasting your time here learning the serious ad writer craft? #YOUTELLME
The thing is, language is how we communicate. Granted, it’s getting less important to many.... emoji can’t be misspelled after all, and U is two taps less than you. Ain’t nobody got time for that, right? Makes sense. But until we master telepathy, the written and spoken language is still how we share information, emotion, inspiration, opinion. It’s how we persuade people to buy (into) whatever we’re selling.
And the whole attention span thing — yes, often we won’t waste our time even reading 140 characters. Yes, we create rudimentary versions of our languages to type faster on our gadgets. Yes, short online articles come with even shorter summaries for the tl;dr
(too long; didn’t read) crowd.
SO, WHAT'S THE POINT?
...of studying to become a writer when writing is for reading and reading is kinda dying?
Well, here’s your point: People still read. They just don’t read whatever. People still read THOUSANDS of pages of their favorite books. Read (and re-read and re-re-read) whole series of books even. J. K. Rowling is a billionaire and George R. R. Martin could be one if he finally finished his next book—because millions of people devour the Harry Potter or SOIAF series (that’s Song of Ice and Fire for the non-tl;dr crowd and The Game of Thrones Books for everyone else) like it’s All You Can Eat Happy Hour. And those are the same people who scroll through their social media feeds like a Perfect 10 swipes through Tinder. So, what’s the truth about the current state of writing? It’s pretty much the same as it always was: what matters is relevance. People read what they find interesting. What has value for them. Something that promises to give them something in return for the time they invest. Something that feeds a need.
So, it’s no wonder that advertising ranks No. veryfardownthelist when it comes to immediate relevance for most people. Nobody feels a need for lame ads for products they don’t care about, and that’s only getting worse the more great content is available all around us.
But the good news is: for companies, that means they need to fight even harder for sales, through interest, through persuasion, through attention. And that’s where you come in. As creating relevant content is getting harder, the potent creators of such content are becoming more valuable.
In short: Learning the craft of using your language to sell stuff will most likely not lose its relevance in your lifetime. We just need to diversify. We’re never done learning. Whenever language changes to fit newly start-upped channels, we have to adapt and keep up in order to be heard. Other than that, persuasion is a timeless skill. Whether you’re selling diapers, a mindset, a crazy idea or snake oil: words have power. And words that make people take action is as close as we can get to magic. Or telekinesis.
YOU'RE WORTH YOUR ATTITUDE IN DOLLARS
Because really, writing isn’t about words. Language is just a medium. What it conveys is thinking. Ideas. That’s why great writing can make the worst idea sound great. Why a great idea can be sunk by poor choice of words. Every line of copy is the manifestation of a thought. Great writers have to be great thinkers. (If you ever meet a not-quite- so-smart writer, check if they’re not really an account person, haha.) The written or spoken word is how we get thoughts from our heads into those of others. How we create emotions out of nothing. Or how we awaken a need no one knew they had. Look at all that power.
That’s also why at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what brief, client or product you’ll end up working on. There are no bad briefs. There’s only bad advertising. Like a Roman emperor once said: Money does not stink. And neither does the alphabet. Or, like that older gentleman in Spiderman said: With great power comes great responsibility. What they both meant is: It’s in your hands what you do with your language. So, choose your words smartly. And always well crafted.
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