Was Richard Warren right to say (copy)writing is a lost art?

Lloyds Bank marketing boss Richard Warren, a founder of agency DLKW and briefly CEO of Mullenlowe, sparked an interesting fire when he told Campaign: “You can quote me on this: No-one can write in advertising agencies any more.”

As with many such conflagrations it’s not the sentiment (Warren’s is a fairly widely-held view) but who said it – namely a high profile client. Lloyds has moved some agency activities in-house and Warren’s view will have rattled a few cages at agency adam&eveDDB, one of London’s more literate academies.

So what’s happened to writing, or copywriting as it used to be known?

We could go on about this all day but here are a few possible reasons:

1/The (relative) demise of print, where many copywriters learned their trade.

2/The rush to data-driven digital. Any writer worth their salt knows that what you leave out is just as important as what you put in. Most digital work is overloaded with detail; because it’s cheap you can put everything in (bloody data) and it’s a rare client who’s prepared to leave anything out.

3/Less money in agencies and so a talent drain to other “creative” activities. Back in pre-history there was a measure of value in adland called a Seymour, named after Geoff Seymour who was the first big agency copywriter on £100k a year. His boss Charles Saatchi, no mean copywriter himself, earned considerably more of course.

4/Adland’s obsession with the new. Among the many interesting points Sir John Hegarty makes in this interview with Ibbonline.com is that nobody in adland seems to be prepared to learn anything from the past. So the work of, say BMP’s John Webster, is ignored whereas in architecture or other such disciplines the pioneers are revered and learned from.

Is there any hope? Actually, probably not.

Agencies blather on about data-driven even when they appoint high level creatives these days – ridiculous. Any decent writer checks a few facts first.

Would either of these escape the data monkeys (AKA chief strategy officers)?

From one David Abbott.

Written by Tony Brignull.

We rest our case – sadly.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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