Copy is back in favour with the judges at D&AD. One silver pencil,
six nominations and 37 entries in the 1998 Annual is a big improvement
on last year, when the art of copywriting went totally unrecognised.
Is the standard of copywriting really so much better this year? Maybe
the judges are compensating for last year’s omission. Or has there been
a change in attitude towards copywriting?
The 1998 D&AD copy jury was instructed to ’be open-minded’ by this
year’s president, Tim Mellors. ’There was a general discomfort that not
enough recognition has been given to copy in recent years. It just
hasn’t been seen as sexy,’ Mellors comments.
The GGT Waterstone’s press campaign, created by Nigel Roberts and his
art director, Paul Belford, is in the book for copy this year. The ads
use the visual of an upright, open book, letting the words capture the
idea and the consumer’s imagination.
Roberts detects a slight change of attitude towards copy, which he says
has been ’unduly ignored in the past’. He continues: ’A lot of people
still agree with John Hegarty that the visual is the only way to make a
real impact in advertising.
But copywriting is part of the job and words are an equally valid way to
express a concept.’
The Waterstone’s work and the Smirnoff ’lonely hearts’ ad (which also
appears in the 1998 D&AD Annual) are exceptional entries in that they
both use words sparingly. When looking for outstanding copy, judges have
traditionally gone for huge chunks of body copy to justify a prize.
Consequently, charity or public service advertising copy is the most
commonly awarded. This is true again this year - the silver went to the
Department of Health’s nursing recruitment campaign and the list of
nominations reads like a list of tax-break opportunities for the rich
philanthropist: Amnesty International, the International Fund for Animal
Welfare and the Department of Health.
Good causes do have the advantage of giving a copywriter more substance
to work with. Ogilvy & Mather has just produced a Samaritans press ad,
written by Alun Howell, which consists of 18 solid paragraphs of copy
and no pictorial distractions. ’This was a specific case,’ he
’It was intentional - the ad itself is about putting in time and effort
to listen to people. The amount of words makes a visual statement of its
Howell believes that the boom in the magazine market and the increasing
penetration of the Internet are proof that people are prepared to read.
He adds: ’Film writers have more kudos than they used to and popular
novelists such as Nick Hornby have also made it cooler to be a
Mellors agrees that copy has at last moved with the times. ’Advertising
copy used to have its own tone of voice that was detached from the
consumer,’ he says. ’It has become more sexy and it’s now about the
written word rather than chunks of prose. The choice of words in the
Waterstone’s ads loads them with meaning.’
Saatchi & Saatchi’s nursing recruitment press campaign, which took home
a silver pencil for copy at D&AD, uses very straightforward language to
conjure up startling images.
Not everyone thinks D&AD has updated as quickly as the copy itself:
’D&AD is so fussy about copy and the judges are so old,’ Howell
complains. ’They are more interested in the typography than the words
themselves. And the categories are old-fashioned - slogans and endlines
are probably the cleverest bits of writing in advertising but they don’t
Howell thinks that if copywriting was given more awards categories, it
would encourage better writing. Mellors concedes that the copy
categories are ’a bit general’ but adds: ’D&AD is trying to simplify the
categories rather than add new ones. Some awards schemes have so many
categories that you don’t even know what you’ve entered.’
As with all ads - whether based in pictures or copy - the bottom line is
still a spark of originality and a good idea. When Tony Miller and his
art director partner, Gary Anderson, got the brief for what turned out
to be Smirnoff’s ’lonely hearts’, they decided to look for a word-based
solution purely because the campaign had, until then, been based
entirely on pictures.
However, the idea of creatives as wordsmiths seems to be a thing of the
past. Roberts asserts ’I’m no poet’ and both he and Miller are quick to
stress that they work as a team with their art directors.