Your client is not a copywriter — Frank derFrankie Neulichedl

Your client is not a copywriter

How many times have you seen a folder, website, brochure with poor text? How many times you read a headline and thought what is this all about? How many times did you stop reading a text because it was tedious to read? I'm sure many times. These texts are not written by copywriter but by the client himself. As a graphic designer you don't care much about the text, it’s not your business - as an art director you must care about it. Here are some tips on how you understand if a text it’s good enough and how you convince your client that is worthwhile having a copywriter do the job.

Copywriting is a job on its own

Like being an art director or graphic designer, being a copywriter is a job of its own. It's more than just writing grammatically correct; it’s about tailoring the text to the medium to transport the message. It’s very similar to the graphic job, just with other tools. By that said it’s obvious that a client whose profession is to develop/sell products or services is not the right person to write the texts. Neither is the secretary or a journalist (unless your project is a house organ).

Advertising text is not the same as a technical description

Most of the time you will get texts which read like fact sheets or are technical descriptions which are suited for the experts. Most of the time all facts and topics are treated as if they have the same importance and the texts are therefore dull. As with all advertising you can transport only one message which has to be single minded. A good copywriter tailors the text to transport this one message and incorporates the rest in order to strengthen this message. You see, there is clear difference between simply describing the features of something and transmitting a message to the audience with the description.

Half-ready texts needs to be reset

The worst thing is, when your client thinks he can actually write. This results in halfway-technical and halfway-old school-advertising texts. You can recognize them easily. You find the company and product name hundred times in it (written in capitals), many bold text phrases (everything is important) and a lot of words like "new" "best" "never seen" "amazing". The sad thing is that the strong points of the product get lost and you have to reset the whole thing and get a briefing to be able to find out the structure und the facts which matter.

Copywriting comes after the creative brief - but the copywriter needs to be there first

In most cases the creative brief is made not only for the graphic design part but also for the copywriter. But like I said in a lesson, the creative brief is a compressed form of the briefing which helps you stick to the track. You need to be at the briefing and so does the copywriter. You maybe want to get the help from the copywriter to write the creative brief and convey with him about the direction the whole project should go. It's important that you both now what you are talking about. You may be surprised how valuable it is to have the copywriter with you as you proceed with the project. You can decide with him how much text you need or want for example - your job is to make the text fit into the layout and the job of the copywriter is to write a text which stays in the layout. The communication between you and copywriter in this sense is crucial.

Get valuable partners

Every professional has his strengths and his weaknesses. The same is true for graphic designers, art directors and copywriters. Some may be perfect for technical products, others for consumer products or cosmetics. Not only graphical appearance must comply with the audience, also the words, and the language. Some creative professions are already more open to classify themselves, like photographers for example, its common that a photographer states that he does only fashion. I haven't seen this happen yet with copywriters and it’s your job as an art director builds the network and understands what the strengths of the copywriter are. Ask them what they enjoy most writing about, get to know them and the writing style they have. Get to know more than one, so you can bring the right copywriter to the right job. And finally if you have to do jobs in more than one language (of which you may not speak or understand some) is sure you can trust the copywriter.

Now that you know how important it is to have texts written by a professional you can approach your client accordingly and “sell” the copywriter to him. But to get good results you need to communicate with the copywriter and how to do this will be part of the next lesson.

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Thank you! At last some direct talk to industry members expressing what we have all learned along the way.We can advise our clients responsibly yet, it's amusing to note that once it's published it becomes real in the eyes of the client. Please keep me posted as to new commentary. Five stars ;-)

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