“A lack of support for copywriters is not a risk, it’s a reality. I have been talking about this for 10 years; I regularly meet with lots of agencies who all tell me they struggle with writing copy but that’s because they don’t hire copywriters, they don’t have a head of copy or they claim they don’t have a budget for training.”
Vikki Ross has been on a mission to defend and celebrate the craft of copywriting. Frustrated at the lack of industry events and support for copywriters, she has been working hard to highlight the importance of good copy and to discuss the skill and technicality that goes into it. This April she’s heading to MELT in Mumbai – a rare creative festival that is taking copy seriously.
In many cases, the nuts and bolts of advertising craft is being edged out on festival line ups in favour of tech talk – despite the fact that copy is more relevant in the age of social media and CX than ever. There’s been an outcry since D&AD has ditched Writing for Advertising as a category.
“Most big industry events tend to focus on shiny new things like AI and tech rather than traditional craft skills. It's sexy and exciting and I guess because not all of it is real or realistically actionable yet, it's interesting because it's aspirational,” says Vikki.
“Of course, it's important to look to the future and be on top of what's coming, but when an attendee leaves an event, what take-outs do they have that they can action back at work the next day? Creatives need to hear from other creatives - they're looking to learn and develop. But talks about craft aren't just for creatives - they're for everyone involved in the creative and marketing process, both agency and client side. Clients will never fully respect what a creative does unless they fully understand how a creative works.”
So, while MELT is, of course, still making space for tech prophets and fortune-telling futurists, this year it is also dedicating a whole stream to copy. According to Nupur Kejriwal, director of Kyoorius Communications, which runs Zee MELT, copy is more relevant than ever in the digital landscape.
“We believe that the communications business has changed dramatically over the years, especially the advertising, media and marketing businesses, thanks to digital. Though ideas and creativity lie at the heart of all communications, and copywriting is its largest pillar. We are also increasingly seeing that copy is becoming more central with the digital landscape becoming more prominent for brands. Hence a large section of one hall for one day is focussed on copy,” says Nupur. “That being said, MELT recognises that each of us is different. We have different tastes, needs, wants and skills. As a consequence, all of us may not be interested in the same speaker or the same demo or the same workshop. MELT will see multiple sessions in progress at the same time. The focus has always been on ensuring that every delegate has something that immensely interests them. Copy/creative is one such pillar.”
In recent years, the crunchy ins and outs of the copywriting craft have been neglected. Clients and agencies are failing to appreciate the technical skill needed to create properly engaging copy, resulting in less persuasive writing. “Everyone thinks they can write – they can – but not everyone can write copy,” remarks Vikki. “It’s a skill, there are techniques which copywriters have learnt and practiced and evolved.”
Her two bugbears are ‘so what’ copy (copy that says so little for the brand, barely attempts to entertain or inform) and copy that has been written for the brand and not for the reader.
“There's also a lot of copy that wouldn't make sense to the consumer. I don't believe for a minute a copywriter starts there,” she says. “Any good copywriter would put the consumer first and write copy that would make sense to them. But as we all know, there are loads of people involved. Often those people think, ‘What do we want to say?’ rather than, ‘What do they want/need to know?’. And, ‘How can we make our message sound more like we know what we're talking about?’ but in doing so, they make the message make less sense. Look at most car ads and you'll know what I mean!”
Over the past few years, Vikki has been a force for change among the copywriting community, both on and offline. On Twitter, she created the hashtag #copywritersunite, which has evolved into quarterly meet-ups around the world. With fellow writer, Andy Maslen, she has created events Copy Cabana and Copy Capital. She’s also well worth a follow on Twitter for her occasional Copy Safaris, in which she heads out into the world with a fellow creative to document and comment upon the brand copy that clutters up our streets and shopping centres (@VikkiRossWrites
At Zee MELT, Vikki will be taking to stage alongside copy legends like Dave Trott and Piyush Pandey and specialists like All Good Copy’s Glenn Fischer and Wellmark’s head of copy Ryan Wallman.
Thinking ahead to her session, Vikki hopes that the event will leave attendees inspired, whether they’re copywriters or not. “I want MELT attendees to leave excited by the power of copy and impressed by the passion and drive and skill of copywriters so they are valued, respected and hired.”
Zee MELT takes place in Mumbai, April 24-25.