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Rachel Aldighieri is the Managing Director of the DMA, EffWeek Partners, and a keen supporter of copywriting. Here she calls for the industry to nurture copywriters and their craft as essential parts of effective creativity.

If creativity is the last unfair advantage a business can have over its competitors, then the marketing and advertising sector has to protect, nurture and encourage its copywriters.

Copywriting is the life blood of creative.

British copywriters are regarded as the best in the world. And with good reason. Look at international awards and you will find that Britain has won more Cannes Lions Awards than any other nation in proportion to its population.

But is British copywriting under threat?

Some years ago the judges at the DMA Awards felt that it was, with good or even great campaigns let down by poor writing. We thought we should do something about this, and decided to get to the bottom of the problem. We had to ask the copywriters what was going on, where was all the great writing?

“Copywriters said the biggest single barrier to good work was the lack of good briefs”

Advertising has changed. The glory years of the 1980s, when the Soho agencies ruled the world, were a much simpler time. No internet. No social media. No hashtags. No adblocking. No smartphones. No click fraud. No SEO. No hipsters. Creatives thrived under the limitations of what was on offer, except they didn’t see the media available then as limiting at all – it was just what was available.

Technology changed all this.

We made a film comparing the copywriters of today to those of the past: the young guns at a Shoreditch caff, the old guard at a tablecloth and fine dining affair somewhere in Soho.

At the meal Tony Brignull, one of the most-garlanded copywriters in history, said: “Copywriting is dead”. According to him, the glory days are over. Strong stuff, and worrying for an industry founded on copywriting and creativity.

The film was there to grab the attention of copywriters and persuade them to complete the first-ever census of British copywriters. More than 430 of them responded, and they lay bare the life of a copywriter today.

First the good news.

Copywriters love their jobs and wouldn’t really want to do anything else.

“There are brilliant copywriters out there making fantastic creative. But it’s not getting out.”

The bad news is that they feel marginalised, caught between the client, the market research and the account manager and without a real voice. They are squeezed by increasing demands for copy, increased competition from new writers entering the sector and the power of clients, the ones who hired them to write something in the first place, to shoot everything down.

Copywriters said the biggest single barrier to good work was the lack of good briefs, something elementary to building great creative.

Infographic showing the barriers to great writing according to copywriters. Poor briefs is the top reason.

As one of those who took the census said, copywriting vacillates, “Between smug and needy, bland and impenetrable, shouty and forgettable; with the very occasional pocket of genius”.

It’s no coincidence that copywriter Vikki Ross founded the #copywritersunite meetings, and then established the brilliant Copy Cabana day with Andy Maslen. Meanwhile we at the DMA started classes for existing copywriters, the Future Writers Labs, copywriting clubs and the upcoming #writerscrawl festival.

There are brilliant copywriters out there making fantastic creative. But it’s not getting out.

How much better would the creative be if the copywriters could bypass the bureaucracy and get work through? Copywriting is not a job just anyone can do, it’s a profession like any other and professional opinions count.

“Nurture your copywriter…”

Without good creative, your strategy, your data, your ambitions won’t work. What should you do to make sure your work is effective?

Many things. But nurture your copywriter. Listen to him or her. Give them the time and space to be better. Write focused briefs that help you get the best result for the brand.

It will make your work better, more effective, more interesting.

Effectiveness Week was an event 31 October – 04 November 2016, which brought together senior marketers and decision-makers from both agencies and clients. The week tackled some of the big questions around making marketing more accountable and enabling the discipline to deliver value to the business through foresight and evidence-based decision-making. You can browse the learnings and key content from the week here.

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“Just what the industry needs, great collaboration between clients and agencies on the topics that drive business growth.”

Bridget Angear, Joint Chief Strategy Officer at AMV BBDO

“It’s great to see the IPA in the UK bring the whole industry and particularly the trade bodies together to focus on effectiveness. This new Marketing Effectiveness initiative will enable people across the industry to work together to build on best practice.”

David Wheldon, Chief Marketing Officer, RBS

“Effectiveness is a team sport, so it was great to see the industry in the widest sense, come together. In an increasingly diverse and fragmented world, only by using all parts of the brain will we solve effectiveness challenges and design our campaigns to deliver short and long term value. That’s why what happens next is important – if the IPA can help facilitate progress on this with a long-term initiative around Marketing Effectiveness, we’ll definitely crack it.”

Bart Michels, Global CEO Kantar Added Value and Country Leader Kantar UK

“The time spent at #EffWeek was extraordinarily effective. It was great to hear the diverse views from all areas of the industry. All tied together with the common themes of accountability and effectiveness.”

Andrew Canter, Global CEO, BCMA

“It has been a privilege to be part of the inaugural Effectiveness Week. The agenda is one which we at O2 UK feel passionately about. To see and hear perspectives across the industry demonstrates how the breadth of marketing effectiveness is increasingly being valued within businesses. Data, insight, social, customer experience, test and learn, ROI, these are all fundamentals and were covered expansively at the event”.

Sandra Fazackerley, Marketing & Consumer, Telefónica UK Limited

“The full week of effectiveness events brought into clear focus the need for marketers to use data and insight to achieve the key business objectives of growth and profits. Marketers today are in a better position to quantify their knowledge of customers and measure the ability of investments in marketing to increase brand and shareholder value.”

Chris Combemale, Group CEO, DMA