How the Internet Stops Copywriters and Art Directors from Creating Great Ads


I love ads in which the visual and the verbal depend on each other to communicate more powerfully and economically than either could alone.

DDB, of course, did this wonderfully for Volkswagen time and again.

great print copywriter sample

This classic print ad would look pretty dull in Google…

The not-spelled-out, keyword-oblivious gap between what you read and what you see forces a spark to leap between the two to form an idea. That spark leaps from your brain, so you have to engage and participate in the idea.

I haven’t interviewed any laboratory primates to confirm that this participation plants the presented idea more deeply in said simian’s cerebellum. But this primate knows that’s how it goes.

Having been enlisted to participate in the ad’s idea often aligns the reader more closely with the ad’s message: You’ve become an insider.

This magical marriage of copywriter and art director, however, is on the rocks.

The Internet is the most efficient way to reach the most targeted audience with an advertising message.

The problem with this fact of virtual life is that the search engines that decide what combination of art and copy will find you in your moment of need can’t perceive the riveting, illuminating, engaging gap between the words and the pictures.

So the copywriter and art director have hobbled to separate corners.

I think art directors have suffered the most in the break-up.

Google looks for keywords in place of inspiration. At least copywriters can write keywords.  It can be a flatfooted, colorless hobble down court, but we copywriters seem to be holding the bounceless ball.

But now I’ll pivot and say it’s not quite the end of the game. It’s more a matter of a few rule changes. And as verbal and visual players, we need to invent new moves and strengthen basic skills that play best in a changed game.

Branding and sales still seem to count as keywords in the marketing arena. So as a freelance copywriter, I go on delivering the copywriting services that score those points for my clients…And, of course, a couple of points for myself when I can. I mean, what’s a copywriter to do?

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  1. #1 by Judith on September 30, 2011 - 5:00 pm

    That picture had me at hello. It was so compelling I couldn’t resist reading the print. Now that’s a great copy and visual combination. 🙂

  2. #2 by Cynti on October 7, 2011 - 12:05 pm

    I laughed out loud when I saw the picture. Had to know what the ad said.

    This was my family car on our way from LA to Yosemite circa 1976. I was the one on top of the suitcases sucking in the exhaust from the open back window.

    And ‘they’ say less is more, what do ‘they’ know? I read every word of copy.

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