Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The write stuff

In our and/and world, definitions of all sorts are becoming blurred and no more so than the roles of writer and artist, filmmaker and ideas person. To me many people in advertising are stuck in the past, worrying about their ideas being taken seriously as creative contributions. I’ve heard frustrated advertising creatives and writers argue that what they do is just as smart, just as thoughtful, just as skilful and just as inspired as what artists do. My response? Get a grip! The visual arts have stopped policing the borders with commerce; the movie industry embraces ideas and talent whatever they’re labelled; screenwriters have stared down the mighty TV and movie industries; and the cult of the online amateur only shows that great stories well told are precious. Rock on writers and do your thing.

Ben Myers puts in an admiring word for the skill of copywriting in The Guardian. As Myers says, “Unless you’re John Grisham or JK Rowling, there’s little to be made from writing fiction. Journalism brings in an average part-time income and poetry pays – almost inevitably – nothing.” Fortunately, Myers went beyond the obvious and tested his corporate copywriting skills. Guess what? Not as easy as he had anticipated. “Coming up with a 10 word slogan to lure customers to spend is little different to writing a short poem about love. Both require the writer to be deft and convincing, to communicate as economically as possible.” Even better, he lists some well known writers who have done time as copywriters for a little inspiration. It’s an impressive line-up. Salman Rushdie, Fay Weldon (who was a player in the famous line “Go to work on an egg”), Don DeLillo, William Burroughs, Dashiell Hammett and Dorothy L Sayers.

7 comments:

Chris said...

Hey KC, you do write some compelling stuff. This current piece is exactly relevant to chats I’ve been having “in your advertising world” in Australia and other countries for a few years now…

Definitions started blurring across advertising “in my real prosumer world” about 5 years ago and you talk
about “frustrated ‘agency’ advertising creatives” arguing their skilful, thoughtful and inspiring contribution! But these are the very same guys who for those same last 5 years have been talking about touch points, engagement, media neutrality and now their latest – branded content and collaboration.
I (and I’m sure thousands of clients) have taken “their craft” very seriously and respected their talent “as artists and strategists”, but; and it’s a big BUT…..

It has always been about touching all points. That is the point. But the lines that have blurred have always been part of the evolving digital landscape. And really-the media neutrality argument is out of the window, because digital as of round about the beginning of last year worldwide was mass media and New Media as of round about 5 years ago was Old Media. A Digital Creative Director or an ECD or Manager-Planner of worldwide digital mass comms, (that includes TV; Press; Radio/as in podcasted radio; Experiential-as in a whole range of retail activation and red carpet; Street Furniture & Mobile; Film; Video; Story Telling; Education and INTERACTION) should not have a background that “only” includes a clutter of Clio’s and Lions across 30 or 60 second clips and immersive writing!
Whilst the above “history” and even very recent history is highly regarded and respected by me and thousands like me, real collaborative direction and inspiration-internally and externally cannot come from having been only a highly awarded Art Director or Writer. It can come collaboratively from these same guys, young and old with ‘Practioner’s of Digital’ who always believed at the outset that CONTENT would come from a combination of ‘executed ideas’ that made the content CONTEXTUAL and often include commerce, art, storylines and emotional response. Some of that emotional response has come from the billions of amateur videos and other forms of user generated content and instant message metaphor on phones. I’ll even remind you that without naming names, one of these ‘amateur video makers’ who made just a couple of YouTube clips for a band when she was a Choreographer and had infact never done video before, is now on your books as one of the Saatchi hot New Directors (of 2-3 years standing now-I think). And I think that’s great, because that’s collaborative and real and evolving. (By the way-amongst others-she was my fave video maker before “this hit”, but so was the band’s song that had a lot to do with driving her vision).

But my real point is that the definition of Executive Creative Director, Creative Director, Digital Creative Director, Head of Digital Innovation or even Agency Planner –or, at least, someone in charge of maximizing a client’s content output, has “totally blurred” .

My response to a lot of these guys I respect, (and on behalf of hundreds of other professional and amateur “content artists”) is “GET OUR GRIPE”.

And, just in case this POV seems like it, this is not a Saatchi and Saatchi application, but it is a real call for collaborative concepts (and not just on someone else’s very brilliant Global Warming ‘collaborative concept’…Actually-whoever says they did whatever, I think you might find a couple of guys called Gore and Branson not only pushed the envelope, but ripped it open well before anyone else did!).

Collaborative means exploration of CMS that’s CMS! (Content Management Systems that are Customer Management Systems). BDM that is ADM! (Brand Direct Marketing & Branded Entertainment-Sponsorship that is All Digital Media). I don’t want to get too repetitive, but ADM is far-far-far beyond WEB or BANNER, with about a hundred micro versions of the same across palm, billboard and many shopping environments and sometimes equally as hard, small or challenging in budget! Perhaps we should really all be agreeing that virtual is in fact now very real.

How real would you like it? We can leverage the quality of great ideas not just into broadband environments, but any environment. I think one of the world’s biggest shopping malls is in Alberta, Canada covering 5.2 million sq.ft? Boy – would I like to leverage that environment! That’s even just the car parks-bigger than football fields!

If you really collaborate, the clutter of Clio’s and Lions and whatever genre of Heavy Metal you want, will come thick and fast…Each and every year, Agency of The Year, Digital Agency of The Year, Media Agency of The Year, Campaign of The Year.

"Marque" my words! THX again 4UR piece! Chris (Bracket Boy)

Chris said...

I'm so sorry! Meant to say KR, Kevin! U can see my own writing skills and proof reading need to be kept in check!

Logan5 said...

"...is little different from writing a short poem..."

karinangelika said...

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!

A truer word has never been said about the current state of advertising, most especially in Sydney.

Digital/interactive/whatever has been separated out from the other traditional channels of communication wherever I have gone here since placing myself on the job market

Each channel sits within its cold grey concrete silo of silence, isolated, alone, not even rapping on the walls to see if anyone else is out there.

A few brave souls dotted around the advertising landscape talk of cross-channel integrated communications, of how agencies MUST become integrated in order to survive, but few believe they will actually do so.

Digital/interactive seems to be dominated by the idea that it talks in a language only techies truly understand, and that users must learn in order to be spoken to, or to be talked at.

Utter nonsense, of course. All communication channels speak the same language - storytelling, and must hold the same values - mystery, intimacy, sensuality and respect, if they are to truly communicate.

All communications channels speak the same language, but in slightly different dialects.

Agencies that are accumulations of silos are doomed. Those whose creatives are forbidden to enter any silo at will have sounded their own death knell. Those that believe in silos at all are doing their clients and this country a massive disservice.

Chris said...

Hey Karinangelika! Ur POV is written from a ‘traditional agency copywriter’ perspective and sounds like what worldwide copywriters were saying about interactive or digital a few years back. I understand (and honour) the communication ‘values’ or emotion, (story telling) you talk of, but this is now copywriting that connects across networked structures that take each and everything, including handheld media like a mobile into consideration. Not just copywriting that appears as SMS or MMS (or even GPS) and hangs together on the internet or internet TV or other digital media! But driven by a theme that INSTANTLY has all the world qualities and appeal of existing online and mobile communities. (Even on a football field, red carpet or a stage)…So your copywriting ‘craft’ needs to acknowledge blogging and hundreds of other weblog tools, but also leverage wider broadband and rich internet applications, (RIA’s) like a high definition movie, animated consul game, virtual engagement or web experience still to come! But all at once! And still-even then-have a chit chat disposable ambiance about it, like ‘communicating’ those mysterious, intimate and sensuous true communications –but like they’re on Messenger on someone’s phone!….People IM to each other over hundreds of pages, billions of people, sometimes using signs-emoticons or whatever you want to call txt pop culture-and it doesn’t matter where or when or how…They might even throw in a video or two and certainly photography! It’s ubiquitous media! And-TRULY-it’s sometimes more of a well told story than a blockbuster that went broke in Hollywood yesterday! You know-I got a lot out of the Carlton Draught Blockbuster I went to see the other day, but I could have still got more…I loved it-to an extent! But I loved it in my seat. I still wanted to ‘be there’, a bit more! So I really think it is changing and that if you’re still on the local Australia jobs market as a copywriter-the ‘copywriting role’ may have already changed a little. Great writers are – of course – exactly that, but I reckon even Bryce Courtenay would have agreed that if he were writing an Interactive Book for the large Interactive Screen tomorrow…His classical and brilliant literature would become what interactions you got from the story and how could his reader use or control the storyline, (the control and interaction of which he still wrote!) And then; this tech-head argument thing is really a cop out and so is the tech-head argument of saying trad ad creatives or agencies don’t get digital! A lot of anyone who is everyone gets it! And even collaboration (and integration) as a debate-is as old as web 2.0! And web 2.0 is very old! But you just have-I’m afraid-to acknowledge that even the world’s most exquisite manuscript has a place to be considered as a scripting language designed for producing a dynamic web page or graphical application or just a collection of technologies to build or facilitate a truly interactive experience than can be searched and optimized via its target and usership habit-which might be an uploading, downloading, sharing, changing or sending behaviour….Everywhere and anywhere…Or finally:

…As you write, your sentence has already become media…it’s already published…it’s already in the hands of millions of individuals…What happens next?….Could be your imagination….Because pretty much anything that’s any good that can be imagined (with ‘mass’ accessibility and broadband media habits in mind) is now possible! But movies, high level animated games, virtual reality…Yeah sure…That’s what everyone does! It’s not New Media. It’s New Content Matrix…And that can also mean repurposing a lot of amazing stuff that’s already written. Promotions. Branded Entertainment direct to consumer or media. Whatever you wish to call it! But repurposing and being repurposeless happens a lot, when teams are concentrating too hard on who owns the assets within the collaboration. In my modest opinion-the CLIENT still owns a huge percentage of IP, but if you recreate assets that they’re sitting on and not using to their money-making advantage-they owe bigger shares of their IP back to the teams that just help make their IP bigger! I mean-that’s my POV.It really-really is about collaboration or let’s use four new words……Getting on with it.

Good luck with your local job hunting. (Would you consider working off shore, by the way? And why not put your Copywriting – literally- into your own BLOG-a blogpholio, vlog, journal or just ads you’ve written or whatever-A lot of people get gigs direct like this. Or YouTube, MySpace, your space, their space, anyone’s space.(You know all this, anyway). And now I’ll give you MoreSpace!

Kevin Roberts said...

Thanks Chris. You are right about collaboration. It is the reason we now have Saatchi & Saatchi X and now our sustainability experts Saatchi & Saatchi S with us to join us in working through new ideas that will have purchase in our rapidly changing world we live in. You call it blur, we call it inclusiveness – it’s the same thing, doing whatever it takes to gather in as much skill, passion and great ideas as you can.

Chris said...

THX Kevin. I 'get it'. X and S sound cool. Skills, passion and great ideas is what life should be.