When people ask me what I do for a living, I find it hard to give them an answer that I’m happy with. As someone who measures his professional success by how creative I can be on demand, I’ve always felt this was a bit of a personal fail. The closest I can come to it without spending twenty five minutes explaining that the contemporary creative advertising industry has transmogrified to the point where job titles are placeholders at best, is to say I write ads for the internet. I don’t feel that this fully describes what I do, but it’s good enough so that I can skip on to the next topic of conversation and hope they don’t notice the sad vague expression on my face as I battle with my inner pedant. Luckily I have the time here to explain more fully.
Yes, in it’s most easily communicable form, copywriters are the guys who write the ads. The Don Draper’s who sit around asking the big questions about brands. This was the whole and most accurate truth for years, it was a simple answer to a simple question. The truth however has changed, writing ads just isn’t all we do these days. The digital age has changed things for us copywriters, basic things. The simple reason for this is because unlike traditional copywriting which had the luxury of static formats like the television commercial or the newspaper ad on static delivery systems like televisions and newspapers, people who write ads now have a lot more avenues of contact to deal with as well as a lot more responsibilities to the people you’re contacting.
This is because theoretically, good or bad, you can do so much more with an interactive experience than you can with one where the consumer of the media is a mere passive element at the end of a mere brand message. Using digital campaigns that have time and seemless integration into reality, you can craft stories, immerse people in a world they never knew existed, create adventure, produce passion and at the same time give them a healthier relationship to the media they consume. It’s been said for years that really good advertising shouldn’t feel like advertising. Interactive gives us copywriters more tools to create things that people really respond to on a human level than as robotic consumers. At least in theory.
As such, my job is to try to conceive not only of ideas for ads, but of how to make people want to interact with the digital elements of the ad campaign in a way that makes them happy. We dont just want to captivate our audience for 30 seconds and make them like the product we’re selling, modern advertising is getting beyond that. We’re focusing on a new type of storytelling, one where we challenge people in new ways, ask them new questions and give them new answers. We’re enabling people to have real relationships with brands by making brands that are capable of having real relationships. Of thinking of a brand and being made happy by the experience in the same way they would if they were thinking of an old friend.
So yeah, I write ads for the internet. About 10 percent of the time. The rest of the time I’m trying to re-invent the wheel so that every pair of shoes in the world has built in rollerskates.
Put simply, like Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap, I strive to put write what once went wrong.