Larry Barker’s pledge to kill off the copywriter and scrap the copy
category in this year’s D&AD awards will provoke mixed feelings
(Campaign, last week).
Is the incoming D&AD president merely pandering to luvvie
pretentiousness by pretending copywriting is high art with the
introduction of a new category called advertising writing? Or is it an
acknowledgement that copywriters have become an endangered species at a
time when advertising has become obsessed by how it looks rather than
what it says?
Coming from an agency such as BMP DDB, which has a fine heritage of
well-written ads, Barker has to be taken seriously when he argues the
distinction between ’copy’, which conjures up images of vast amounts of
meaningless words, and ’writing’, which suggests thoughtfulness and
In many ways, Barker’s initiative merely reflects what has long been
happening in agency creative departments, where the distinction between
writer and art director has become so blurred as to be
Indeed, the creative director of one of the UK’s leading shops believes
it would be possible for his department to function effectively if it
was comprised almost entirely of art directors working with a couple of
Yet there is still a need to proceed cautiously. That same creative
director admits he has to ensure that the work of his young teams are
not only on brief, but free of basic grammatical and punctuation
It’s arguable whether this matters at a time when much of the newspaper
and magazine advertising has become ’posters in press’.
The danger is that, by neglecting the basics, the industry opens the
door to laziness and technology is allowed to take over from words and
Barker’s move will be welcome, though, if it sustains the value of
writers who may yet have the last laugh, as an exploding internet gives
words a whole new lease of life.