|Is It True That Nobody in the Ad Industry Hires Writers?
By: Brian Keller
No one hires writers.
You get a pencil in Kindergarten and, boom, there it is; anyone can write, or so they think. Some, the real writers, have taken pencils and traded up to pens, typewriters, word processors, and the computer keyboard and turned their knowledge of culture and business and suitcases of arcane trivia into careers as copywriters—the concept kings and stars of advertising.
Not so much anymore.
Oops. The computer made life easy with visual adaptability. The ad industry changed. “Pencils” and ideas on a napkin disappeared faster than brain cells at a Hunter Thompson tribute. Clients expected concepts as finished-looking work.
The Big Bang Theory
Art Directors got attractive in the eyes of clients. Paragraphs shrank, visuals expanded. Concepts, the writers thought, were still king. Things were okay. Then came the “Big Bang.” The Internet exploded and information was cast all over a World Wide Web, birthing email, email blasts, microsites, landing pages, web films, and all kinds of visually designed messages. The writer stood fast by his/her Commodore and sometimes refused to participate in this media, finding it not relatable to concept. They thought: “This abomination to the “industry” would disappear. Effete Art Directors began to write and “geeky” programmers, afraid to approach writers, started sticking some words in. And writers felt and feel that no one hires writers.
The “Big Bang” created asteroids of former stars. They, in turn, have created galaxies of camaraderie on, ironically, Internet forums. And they wrote, and continue to write across their galaxies, words: “I’m a writer. No one hires writers.” “There’s no premium on words.” “A writer isn’t valued.” “When I started, words were important.” “Design; it’s all about design.” “People have no attention span.” “They can’t read.” “Programmers and designers write.” “Clients are being billed for writers and not getting what they pay for.” “Clients should hire writers and see what writers do.” “The Internet is a wasteland; concepts go there to die.” “There’s no writing there.” “I won’t write that.” “I can’t deal with email.” “Facebook? I don’t have a Facebook page. Lunatics are just playing ‘Farmville.’” “I can’t deal with Twitter.” Followed by commiseration. And there’s the rub to much commiseration—not enough adaptation.
Yes, there may be a shortage of traditional copywriting jobs. But there’s not a shortage of need for words written. Job boards have thousands of jobs for writers. They may not be the jobs writers want, but they are there.
In a galaxy of trillions of words…
The Internet contains lots of words. Someone’s writing them. Those “someones” are writers willing to adapt and willing and able to look conceptually at websites, banners, emails, web films, social media, landing pages, splash pages, etc. and write them. Many writers don’t want to stray from what was once, maybe, a more glamorous and narrow discipline. There is print. It’s different and getting sparser. There is TV. It’s getting sparser. There is newspaper. It’s getting sparser. There is collateral. It’s getting sparser. Traditionally, there has been an art side and a copy side and these partnerships are getting sparser.
Concepts are not getting sparser. They’re getting different and they have to make sense across a whole universe of media. Good communications come from concepts.
Stop looking at media. Start thinking of ideas. Yes, a lot of “work” looks just like execution and not ideas. Change it. Writers do concepts. Adapt.
From an article on September 12, 2011 by writer John D. Sutter, CNN (online): ”Kevin Kelly, a founder of Wired magazine, has written that there are at least a trillion Web pages in existence.” Along with web pages, which are written, are the offshoot communications of the web page as well. They are written. Someone is writing them.
“Without deviation progress is not possible.” –Frank Zappa
Writers have always been a neurotic bunch. Vachel Lyndsay was a great writer and maybe the first rapper. He was the early proponent of what is called singing poetry, perhaps paving the way for Grand Master Flash, Run DMC, NWA, Kanye, Nikki, Lil Wayne, and other posses, yo! He committed suicide by drinking a bottle of lye. Popular Virginia Woolf put stones in her pockets and walked into a river, leaving a lot of us stuck reading Orlando and trying to figure out why she was popular. Ernest Hemingway, running out of bulls to beat up and wars to fight, shot himself, leaving the world with a whole bunch of bad movies made from his work. Sylvia Plath did herself in with a head (hers) in the oven. She left college women a clear path to angst. Hunter Thompson shot himself, asking that his ashes be shot out of cannon, leaving many Peyote lovers behind.
They were all very popular when they died. They all had neuroses of some kind, as most writers do. Perhaps if they had the Internet and writers’ forums as an outlet for all their complaints about money, fame, boredom, and the lack of respect for writers, they may have been able to avoid the inconvenience of death for a bit longer.
“The times they are a-changin’.” –Bob Dylan
You should have seen it coming. They’ll continue to change. Words need writing; it’s just different. People pay for them. In a writer’s mind, no one will ever show enough respect to writers. Adapt. Take the money that’s there. Buy a cabin with it. Write your novel. The work is out there.
Without writers, this would be a blank page. Many may think that’s a good concept.
Brian Keller is the Creative Director at teeny agency in Baltimore. He graduated from the University of Maryland (English), went to grad school at NYU (Cinema Studies), & attends University of Baltimore School of Law.
Brian's been working primarily in the digital space for years but enjoys all communications avenues.
He has built the creative departments at two agencies.
He likes skateboarding with his son. He also falls off his skateboard and amuses his son. When not amusing his son or riding bikes or playing basketball or working he writes for Beyond Madison Avenue & that's why Beyond Madison Avenue appears twice in this sentence.
Find him online here and at www.teenyagency.com.