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Writer Shortage in AdLand, Part 2: The Shift
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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We decided this topic warranted further inspection. Earlier, we shed light on the "shortage" of writers in AdLand, based on a USA Today piece. Based on further observation, and the insightful comments left by the experienced and smart readers of BMA, we want to concentrate this second piece on how we got here.

Where did the writers go? Were there enough to go around in the first place?

Both questions are difficult to answer, but one could probably get away with "they left" for the first one and "probably not" for the second. For, looking through quips and passages from Chiat, Ogilvy, Bernbach, Lois, Weber, and even Vonnegut, AdLand has had a difficult relationship with writers. The thing is, some could write very well, and others couldn't. 

But, writers were still used and heralded. Copywriting positions were hot positions. You needed experience. You needed recommendations. You needed a brain, and a well-rounded one.

There's been a shift, though, and writers no longer hold the clout they once had. What happened?

Two of the commenters from the previous post nailed it: the dumbing down of advertising, and the rise of "content."

On dumbing down: we have bemoaned the lack of smart advertising in the marketplace, and we never thought that it could be the lack of writers in the industry. It makes sense; if one doesn't write and create concepts for a living, what else would be thought of other than what is already out there? The simplistic themes of sex, toilet humor, and "guys being guys" rule when training in conceptual thinking (i.e. writing) is lacking. Commercials and print ads need more than designers who think they're funny. 

On content: brands and agencies alike are heeding the call to push out more and more content regardless of the quality. Internet marketers bark their doctrine of putting as much content out as possible because search engines favor material, and "gurus" teach brands and agencies the lessons of letting consumers dictate what should be said and how. 

Why, then, would writers be needed? The truth is, they should be needed. But like another commenter said, with the amount of "content" being pushed out, brands and agencies are not willing to front the cash to writers who could create quality pieces. So the good writers are let go, and the brands bring on interns or add writing assignments for the project managers or designers. In the world of economics, that would be called turning comparative advantage upside down. Meaning that, though the brands think they are saving money, it is simply not efficient.

Your thoughts?

And yes, we are planning a third and final piece to "solve the shortage." Get excited.


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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