CAMPAIGN CRAFT: The Creative Issue - D&AD award for copy signals new respect for written word. Emma Hall looks at what’s behind the D&AD Awards’ switch in favour of writers

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.

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

get rewarded.’

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.