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Writer Shortage in AdLand, Part 3: The Proposal
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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First, we talked about the problem: apparently there seems to be a shortage of writers in AdLand. Then we talked about how the problem was created; whether it was the lack of attention on writing in school or the fact that many people entered the advertising world from different occupations. We also mentioned the "rise of content," where the brands and agency partners are placing more focus on quantity of content rather than quality. Not to mention, agencies and brands are using the slow economy as an excuse to not pay for quality writers.

Now we get to talk about if the "writer shortage" can be solved and how we think AdLand can do it. Believe us when we say that these solutions would not come easy. We are sure that many of you will throw in your suggestions, and we look forward to reading them.

Shift in Thought Leadership
This is really a pseudo-solution. In order for the real changes to take place, the ones in charge and advocating for today's environment would need to redirect their initiatives and ways of thinking. The answers we need cannot be found if our leaders are trying to solve the problems with their same processes. We'd be fine with the same leaders, as long as they are able to adapt to a new way of thinking.

Establish Writing Mentorship and Apprenticeship Programs 
As with most trades back in the day, a new professional did not show up and immediately start to work. There was a process in place where a new professional would follow a master or elder worker until they knew enough of the trade and craft to be successful on their own. Advertising, too, is a trade better learned on-the-job than in the classroom. We're not talking about the internship programs that we know of today. We're proposing programs that show new professionals what kind of writing is expected from them, and having senior writers from agencies showing them tips as to how to get there. Agencies, especially mid to large shops, can take advantage of its resources and build up its newest professionals into writers. Yes, we understand many of you would ask about the university and college programs that teach writing and advertising. What shouldn't those schools be reformed?

Because it's AdLand complaining about the writers, not academia. If AdLand has the problem, then AdLand should either stop complaining, and fix it.

More Focus on the Basics 
Our industry is a confusing one. On one hand, we run to the latest and greatest piece of technology, saying that from now on we should only use this to reach our audience, and on the other hand, the way agencies and client/agency relationships are maintained is so stuck in the past. We put our attention on the wrong things. As we clamor for more experience in digital, we lose our ability to craft thoughtful and effective messages across the board. So much, in fact, that there was a research paper presented about how bad signs are because consumers can't read small, plain signs when looking for a business. 

Really?

We've got to lock it up. And getting back to recruiting those who can write well can help AdLand out of this funk.

Beef Up Membership Qualifications of ANA and 4A's
More often that not, negative reinforcement works better than incentivization when it comes to changing behavior. We recommend, therefore, that the two flagship organizations, the ANA and the 4A's, maintain their credibility by stiffening their membership regulations and emphasizing the importance of quality writers. How? Good question. This would be a little tricky, because one does not want to fall into the mess of quotas or percentages, but the organizations should require proof that each member has a sufficient amount of senior and junior writers on board. The organizations would have to determine what the "sufficient amount" may be, but we figured that it would vary based on the size of the agency or brand. The membership would be dependent on maintaining these levels, else it faces public reproval or membership revokement.

It's time for the organizations that want to represent our industry to defend our industry. Let's see some standards.

Pay Up!
Senior and experienced writers will demand more compensation than newbies. Deal with it, because it is worth it to your agency, your brand, and the audience you are trying to reach. If you plan on spending a lot of money and effort on a campaign, you might as well have the best people available to do it. We recommend (though we believe 4A's may have already done this) that 4A's compile a survey and a rate chart of the average salaries for certain positions and skills, according to agency size. There agencies can see the market rate and choose willingly to go above or below it, and those writers who are looking for a shot somewhere can see what they should expect. This eliminates any disillusionment.

There you go. Those are our thoughts. Whatever your thoughts may be, and whatever AdLand does to address this problem, let us all hope that we pick the right direction.


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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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