Thursday 24 January 2019

What’s the latest edition of The Copy Book tell us about changes in copywriting?

The D&AD’s bestselling Copy Book’s out in a new edition. We dived in to find out how copywriting has changed since the original publication in 1995. Here’s what we found…

The Copy Book is D&AD’s highest ever selling book. It features 32 of the best ad copywriters in the world talking about their craft and showcasing their greatest work. Many writers consider 1995’s edition to be their Bible. So much so that some of the original copies used to sell for over £150 on Ebay.

A lot’s happened since 1995. The internet, social media, fragmentation of traditional media audiences… to name a few. So we wanted to find out what the new edition reveals about what’s changed.

Advertising’s less dominant 
The new edition of The Copy Book welcomes just five newcomers to its pages. Of the five newcomers, there are two who are not from advertising. Dan Germain, a founder of Innocent, and direct response writer Steve Harrison. So copywriting experts are coming from new fields outside of advertising.

Talk about below the line.

Advertising’s gone tactical
It says a lot about the state of advertising as a medium that the majority of showcased work in The Copy Book is over 10 years old. The medium simply doesn’t dominate in the digital era. Brand campaigns are playing second fiddle to measurable, tactical digital campaigns. Sales, Click-Through Rates and conversions.

Everything’s an ad nowadays
That focus on the pack is new - or new-ish. In 1982, American actor Paul Newman decided to chat quirkily away on the side of his salad dressing packaging with lines like, “Fine Foods Since February”. I can remember being delighted by ‘Partswagon’ on a VW company truck. But playful copy remained rare until Innocent came along. Now everyone’s trying to do it, usually with disappointing results (does anyone really like Virgin’s relentless chirpiness?)

It’s a testament to the work of branding agencies that every brand touchpoint is now not only designed - it’s also written in the brand’s tone of voice.

Tone of voice is more important than messaging
Innocent didn’t have any advertising budget at the outset, but had to have packaging.

“We didn’t know how to design the packaging and we didn’t know how to do marketing. But we had a go anyway.” - Dan Germain, Founder and Brand Director of innocent

They made the pack copy as much of a brand statement ('packvertising') as its design with their now famous chatty, quirky, tone of voice. That started a movement for distinctive tone of voice copy and its use as a brand communicator across multiple touchpoints that we see all around us today.Chatty copy is now so common that some consumers are rather sick of it, labelling it ‘wackaging’.

Long copy is back
Long copy hasn’t gone away, it’s just moved house. Rare in ads even in 1995, it is now almost extinct in advertising. But according to Nick Asbury, packaging, websites, brand narratives, tone of voice guides and copy-led identity schemes are the new places to find the art of long copy.

One might think that innocent have a completely fresh new outlook on brand writing, but it’s really following classic advertising principles. Ad agencies used to talk about gaining permission to enter the consumer’s living room by providing entertainment before the sell. Now brands earn the consumer’s time. If you’re holding their pack - it’s your time. The brand should reward you for that.

“The fundamentals of copywriting haven’t (changed)”, says Paul Fishlock of BMF. “At their best, they tap into hard-wired drivers of human behaviour, which evolve over thousands of years, not ten minutes.”
In our next blog

There’s a lot of great tips on brand writing in The Copy Book, so we’ll be sharing the best of them in our next post.

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