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Has new media changed copywriting?


Steve Caputo

Creative director, R/GA

Twelve years of professional writing and marketing experience

Yes. Copywriting is a process, and a thoughtful approach to the steps of prewriting, writing, rewriting, editing and publishing is a time-tested route to well-written work. But the elements of great writing are not set in stone. Each new copywriter, technique and technology reshapes the craft.

The impact of new media on the writing process is notable for the unprecedented speed and spread of its influence. Today’s writers wield the power to write, rewrite, edit and publish in a matter of seconds. A few keystrokes later, your readers are writing right back to you. As a result, a steady stream of new writing floods the new media landscape, driving all types of content, spawning new vernaculars and redefining our standards of readability.

For some, this is a distasteful development. Purists will point out the corruption of language that plagues electronic writing, the erosion of grammar and onslaught of mindless abbreviations. At the other end of the spectrum, pragmatists will dismiss such concerns as remote and dated, arguing that traditional rules only matter if valued by the intended audience.

Tomorrow’s copywriters would be wise to avoid the traps of such polarized thinking. To keep up with the times, they should remain disciplined when it comes to craft and process, while learning new ways to write effectively across all media.


Suzanne Darmory Dunleavy

Head of copy and ACD, JWT

14 years of international advertising and marketing experience

No. First came words. Then came the printing press, radio, billboards, television, the Internet, mobile apps and so on.

While media outlets have changed more in the past five years than the previous 50, the creative writing process has essentially remained the same. We copywriters still collaborate with art directors to create persuasive concepts and well-crafted copy that cut through the clutter and drive the message home. We still strive to make our brands and clients heroes, while effectively driving response rates. And we still negotiate with account directors to create work that we’d proudly show our colleagues.

The biggest difference in today’s writing is that we can no longer talk at the consumer. Instead, we must engage them in a dialogue, whether through compelling subject lines, captivating Johnson boxes, or dynamic static banners. For this dialogue to be effective, it must be on brand, be on strategy, be engaging, target the right audience with the right tone and have a clear call to action. These goals have not changed over time, even if the channels have.

If the rise of new media has changed anything, it has created more opportunities for exceptional writers to excel. That’s because a skilled writer is, and always has been, a skilled storyteller. And that’s someone we will all want around for many decades, many client dinners, and many new media to come.


It’s hard to argue with progress. Caputo’s idea that social media has created a dialogue sounds good in theory. However, Dunleavy’s opinion will resonate with copywriters who have always adapted messages based on response. If marketers don’t control copywriting, its ability to influence may be undermined.

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