The Lost (and Found) Art of Copywriting

Photo of Neal Gomberg
Date: 2013-10-01 13:34:45 // Categories: Trends,
By: Neal Gomberg
Date: 2013-10-01 13:34:45 // Categories: Trends,

Have you been stalked by shoes?

I have.  I almost sprung for some handsome wingtips on Zappos, but the last thing I need is more shoes, so I reluctantly left the site and moved on to The Huffington Post, where I started reading a scintillating piece on the history of terry cloth.  That is until, out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a small ad for Zappos – featuring the very footwear I decided not to buy.

Then it got even stranger.  Those shoes followed me to four more sites. I could swear they were saying, “You want us.  You have to have us. We’re following you until you buy us.”

That’s when I started to worry about the future of copywriting.  Why? Because in its own maddeningly annoying way, the “stalking shoes” ad – a fine example of retargeting – was effective without a single word of copy.  Like a lot of digital ads, it was more about the ingeniousness of its delivery system, than the brilliance of its content.

Of course, in the digital realm, ads with little or no copy are the norm, which left me wondering: what if we’re hurtling toward a future in which well-crafted copy is obsolete?  Do we really need serious wordsmiths to craft lines like,

“Click here?”  Is my role as a copywriter inevitably headed for oblivion?

At the beginning of my career, I was fortunate enough to work for living legends.

Men and women who wrote lines like, “Think small” for Volkswagen.

I seriously doubt that at some of-the-moment digital agency, a young copywriter is standing awe-struck before the writer who created, “Click here.”

After some careful thought, I realized the only thing I have to fear is being stalked by shoes.  Copywriting isn’t a lost art, it’s a changed art. You can even argue that in the context of advertising, the written word is thriving.

Consider the number of ads you get in email form and the very fact that you’re reading this blog.  We can’t forget there’s digital, social, mobile and more recently native advertising – digital ads posing as editorial.

The fact is, in advertising’s brave new world, a copywriter has the opportunity to write in more mediums than ever.

Just last week, I wrote a TV spot in poem form, a manifesto for a new business pitch and the introduction to Extended Stay America’s new cookbook.

Therefore I find myself encouraged. Yesterday, in one of those ancient relics – a print magazine, I actually saw a long copy ad for A-1 Steak Sauce.  Maybe, the traditional print ad, like the vinyl record, is making a comeback.

I’ll soon be teaching a copywriting class at Barry University in Miami Shores.  The fact alone that young people are interested enough to show up, bodes well for copywriting’s future.

The point is, good writing still matters.  It continues to make us think and laugh and cry and wonder and hope and love and mourn and travel and write letters to the editor and reminisce and vote and make artisanal cheese, and yes, buy things.

Oh, and shoes stalking works pretty well too (I did end up with a brand new pair of wingtips).

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