What is a copywriter?


Adland needs to reclaim the term because it has been cheapened and debased.

The answer was always very simple: one half of a creative team working in an agency, writing ads for TV, radio, print and digital. The great Chris O’Shea, who passed away a couple of weeks ago, was an exceptionally good example.

However, the term “copywriter” has recently been adopted and adapted to describe people who’ve never worked in an agency or even written an ad. The writing of ads is the plinth on which our entire business is built. So how have we allowed the name of our occupation to be stolen by people who weren’t, aren’t and never will be good enough to work in a creative department?

Blame the agencies

It was they who neglected the word “copywriter” in favour of the indistinct and meaningless “creative”. This meant that neither member of the team really took ownership of the words, so the ability to arrange those words in the right order began to decline.

So what do we do?

We start by reclaiming the name. Thousands of us worked very hard to call ourselves “copywriters” and then worked even harder to write the ads that justify our descriptor.

That descriptor is now being cheapened and debased. If you landed from Mars and wanted to know what a copywriter was, the baseless boasts of a “freelance ideator and copy ninja” is what you’re now likely to find.

It’s no good asking agencies to re-hire proper copywriters. Those ships have sailed. Neither is it any good putting your faith in the average advertising course. Often, the only thing worse than the standard of writing among students is the standard of writing among tutors. One young team told me that there wasn’t even a copywriting module on their course. I suggested they demand half their fees back.


There is one course, run through Bartle Bogle Hegarty by the venerable Tony Cullingham, where copywriting is taught properly, alongside the plenitude of skills necessary to make creative departments of the future every bit as good as those of the past. Seeing this course made me realise that the best way to rid our industry of faux copywriters is to train a new generation of real ones.

And who knows? One day, some of them might be as good – OK, almost as good – as Chris O’Shea.

This article first appeared in www.campaignlive.co.uk

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