GOOD­BYE LONG-FORM, HELLO # HASH­TAG

Copy­writ­ing is not dead, writes Ka­t­rina Pe­trenko.

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE - KA­T­RINA PE­TRENKO Con­tent Lead, Dig­i­tas LBi MENA

Online ad­ver­tis­ing is not sound­ing the death knell for quality copy, writes Ka­t­rina Pe­trenko. Far from it

Words mat­ter. For all you tra­di­tional copy­writ­ers won­der­ing how you’ll fare in the world of dig­i­tal, don’t give in to doubt and panic. Scribes have a place in this sea of snaps, sto­ries and live feeds. Word­smiths will live to tell an­other tale.

It might seem as though video con­tent is ev­ery­thing. Yet with­out us lo­gophiles, art direc­tors would be tread­ing wa­ter, lost in a world of sym­bol­ism and metaphors and vis­ual tropes. And though “mak­ing it” in dig­i­tal as a hum­ble, dé­modé writer might seem like swim­ming up an es­pe­cially un­yield­ing and jagged stream, you will come out the other side a white swan in de­mand, a tech­ni­cian in your field.

If the likes of John Caples, David Ab­bott, David Ogilvy, Eu­gene Shwartz and Bill Bern­bach are your in­spi­ra­tion, you are no doubt a prodi­gious orig­i­na­tor of com­po­si­tions. My only ad­vice for you is to pick up your quill one last time, and draw up a heart­felt obit­u­ary for our beloved but not ever forgotten friend, long-form copy. No, the art of writ­ing is not dead; it has sim­ply taken on a new form.

Long gone are the days when peo­ple rel­ished scrolls of copy and hung on to your ev­ery word. That goes for books (re­mem­ber those?) and even more so for ads. I’m beat­ing a dead horse, but we know the gen­eral pop­u­lace would much rather look at pretty mov­ing pic­tures. There’s no time to read any more, no pa­tience, no de­sire. But I’ve said it be­fore and I’ll say it again: copy­writ­ing is not dead. And it matters now, more than ever.

We need no fur­ther proof of this than a ca­sual glance at the cur­rent land­scape. Here we are, truckin’ along in a post-truth world of dou­ble­s­peak and alternative facts. Click-bait head­lines have gone hay­wire and clash­ing nar­ra­tives have left us at a loss for words, di­vided and un­sure of what to do or say, what to be­lieve and what to fight for.

This emerg­ing dystopia is a lit­tle rem­i­nis­cent of some­thing we’re all fa­mil­iar with – bad ad­ver­tis­ing. Lies, cor­rup­tion, em­bel­lish­ments and hy­per­boles. Bruised egos, fab­ri­cated in­tel­li­gence, ap­a­thy and grasp­ing for straws. We’re spoiled for choice but starved of free­dom. We’re told pre­cisely what to fear and when to fear it, with no proof of why. What the world of ad­ver­tis­ing has in com­mon with the world at large is quite sim­ple. Now more than ever. It’s words.

What we say matters. What we read matters. To make it in this crazy world we need to speak in a man­ner that is sim­ple, con­cise and to-the-point. We need to be provoca­tive. It might be a sim­ple head­line, a Face­book post or a su­per on a screen. Gosh, it might even be a hash­tag. Just look at how #Black­LivesMat­ter, #LoveWins, #BringBack­OurGirls and #LikeAGirl started con­ver­sa­tions, stirred up emo­tions, turned words into ac­tions and in­spired change.

In the age of dig­i­tal, not only is less more, less is an art. If they try and tell you that copy­writ­ing is on its way out, show them some of the ge­nius signs spot­ted at the Women’s March. If they try to tell you it doesn’t take a writer to write a so­cial post, show them a few of the 45th pres­i­dent’s tweets. Do not let this rhetoric of dig­i­tal vis­ual craft dwarf your art or in­tim­i­date you. Words have power, and that won’t change.

As ad­ver­tis­ers, our thoughts, ideas and be­liefs have the abil­ity to in­flu­ence and change the world. As writ­ers, we help cre­ate con­text and com­plete the story. And we don’t just write – every­one knows which half of a creative part­ner­ship re­ally comes up with those award-winning con­cepts.

Evolve and expand. Think fast on your feet. Learn about user ex­pe­ri­ence. Master con­tent strat­egy. Heck, write some code. The bat­tle­field isn’t just pen and pa­per and screens any­more. As writ­ers we have the unique abil­ity to learn new skills faster, to em­brace change and solve chal­lenges in ways oth­ers wouldn’t ever think about. Yes, we are writ­ers. But this only means we can be any­thing we want.

The an­a­lyst firm Gar­ner pre­dicts that by 2018, 20 per cent of all con­tent will be writ­ten by ma­chines. Re­lax. Sure, this might work for an earn­ings report or a le­gal doc­u­ment. But for the kind of con­tent that you and I cre­ate and con­sume, tech­nol­ogy still has a way to go. Ev­ery time a dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tive needs to be pro­duced, code will need to be rewrit­ten. So for now, be the coder, and own it. #Copy­writ­er­sMat­ter.

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