CRAFT: Column; If words are dead we need to develop craft skills

John Hegarty, that famous Irish art director from Bartle Bogle Hegarty, gave a talk to our agency the other night and told us that words are dead. According to John and that well-known Irish copywriter, Oscar Wilde, we don’t need them so much any more, especially if we take more time to think about what we want to say.

John Hegarty, that famous Irish art director from Bartle Bogle Hegarty,

gave a talk to our agency the other night and told us that words are

dead. According to John and that well-known Irish copywriter, Oscar

Wilde, we don’t need them so much any more, especially if we take more

time to think about what we want to say.



It is, of course, easy for BBH, Abbott Mead Vickers, Howell Henry

Chaldecott Lury and BMP DDB to talk about the death of the wordsmith.

They all have, arguably, the best collection of copywriters in the

business, not to mention the most talented art directors, so they can

afford to be less precise about their job descriptions. Whether

creatives call themselves ‘copy’ or ‘art’ seems less important in an

environment of total creativity.



A few years ago, when students showed you their books they always

fidgeted with embarrassment when you asked them who was words and who

was pictures. After all, hadn’t Dave Trott explained that it was all

about ideas and that agencies hired teams? So students became a team,

got a book with a few ideas in it and largely ignored the craft skills

that traditionally allowed the team to develop.



It has certainly changed since the early days of advertising, when the

copywriter would send his ideas by internal post to the visualisers

department. Now, I’m afraid, it’s me who fidgets with embarrassment if

I’m Luddite enough to ask who’s copy and who’s art. These credits are no

longer relevant to a great many teams. If those teams become great, then

it is irrelevant, but I’m not convinced that colleges are equipped to

cram all the crafts into the student ‘teams’ or that agencies have the

time to allow the freshly hired teams to learn their trade.



The Mac allows teams to churn out ideas fast and furiously in the same

way that some agencies themselves work. The equivalent in football is

the ‘long ball’, the theory based on getting the ball quickly and

directly into the opponent’s penalty area as often as possible. The law

of averages then dictates some kind of short-term return. Other teams

and agencies, however, prefer to play the ‘beautiful game’, one that is

based on a passion for developing the basic craft skills and the ability

to do the simple things well.



So if we have to do it with less words, we’re going to need better

copywriters and art directors with better craft skills and fewer Jack-

of-all-trades, so that young teams who are trying hard to be AC/DC can

avoid becoming low voltage.



Billy Mawhinney, also an Irish art director, works at Ammirati Puris

Lintas



Topics

Become a member of Campaign from just £45 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).