Some people would rather empty bins or wipe old people’s backsides than write copy for businesses.
And why blame them? There are few better ways to make friends.
I’ve been employed to do all three things at various times, but I’ve never worried about whether a job was ‘creative’ or not — if you bring imagination to any job you can make it as creative as you like.
That’s why I was surprised when someone told me: “Copywriting isn’t as creative as I expected it to be.”
And that got me thinking.
What is creative about copywriting?
At first glance, it’s not a question that bothers copywriters or their clients — hammer “Is copywriting creative?” into Google and you’ll be met by the search engine equivalent of a blank stare.
And that’s a mistake.
If copywriters asked themselves this question more often, they’d be better at what they do.
And if clients asked it just once in a while, they’d easily avoid hiring expensive timewasters who can’t sell sweets to a toddler.
Creativity: ego vs care
Think of all the jobs you’ve ever done.
If your experience is anything like mine, every one of those jobs — no matter how unexceptional on the surface — offered you two creative routes.
First: creativity to achieve what’s important to you.
Second: creativity to achieve what’s important to your client.
If you’re in the right job (and if you’re any good at it) you’ll be doing both.
A care assistant job I once had is a good case in point.
Many of the care assistants I worked with were creative: the ingenuity they had when it came to avoiding awkward shifts, landing their work on other people, squeezing in illicit cigarette breaks and overlaying a veneer of care on their neglect was… astonishing.
And then there was Judy. She took time to talk to the residents, play games with them, share ideas with them, give a real damn about them as human beings — on her own time as well as during her working hours. She was truly creative, and by giving more to the job got a lot more out of it.
And she changed lives.
Who is your copywriter writing for?
It’s a sad fact, but if copywriting wasn’t considered a creative industry, there’d be fewer amateurs, charlatans and incompetents out there to waste their clients’ money.
Many people are attracted to our trade because they’ve got a degree, or done a spot of journalism, or because people have told them they write well.
They often work hard, come up with creative ideas, give fast service — but because they assume copywriting is something ‘creative’, and therefore primarily about innate talent rather than technique, they’re really selling fine words that don’t necessarily work.
And, more often than not, they’ll spend years and years peddling creative writing — and not so much as pick up a book on what makes writing persuade, sell or win custom.
Why bother when you can flog a few punning headlines or self-absorbed paragraphs for big bucks? It’s the easy route to an income.
And, sadly, clients accept it. Some spend millions on ad campaigns that win awards – for the advertisers – but sell hardly any extra products.
And I think that’s a disgrace. When a client pays you, they’re paying you to be creative on their behalf – not for your own gratification.
In think real creativity lies in learning your craft and then using your creative skills to achieve something for the person that commissions you.
That’s why it’s a copywriter’s duty to know that one or three testimonials used in the right context will sell more than two. Or the right place to put a response slip. Or the types of headlines that increase readership.
And it’s that kind of learning that gives them the skill to be truly creative – to leave ego out of the equation and achieve results for a client without trying to stamp their ‘personality’ into each sentence.
After all, brilliant copy should work well as well as read well.
The other kind of creativity is – bluntly – about accepting money to show off.
And unless you’re a clown, your client won’t be laughing when they see the end result.