What’s Up?

Stay up to date on our projects, people and blog posts with the Creative Brief, a monthly compilation of all things ABC.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Copy Matters No Matter What You Do


We were recently reviewing a campaign and noticed something that wasn’t quite right. It seems that all of us, including myself, missed something very important. It was two words. Two. Words.

Two little words (four letters if you want to get even more specific) changed the meaning of the whole sentence and entire ads. It was a mistake, and a lesson as well. Sometimes a couple words are all it takes to mess something up. Sometimes two words can make something perfect. The point is that copy matters – in business and, ultimately, in life.

How many times have you had an email get misconstrued or made a grammatical error that changed the meaning of your communique? It happens to all of us, including me as a professional copywriter. In fact, that’s what happened in the case described above.

Words matter in advertising. Every word.

Over the past 20 years or so, I’ve come to realize this is true without exception. As a writer, editor and proofreader, I must consider every word carefully and ensure everything is dispatched without error, lest you affect a client’s credibility. As a marketer, I must consider every word and appreciate its impact as a powerful piece of the creative process.

Just as many imagine, an ad agency is constantly buzzing with ideas and creativity. In fact, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. And most concepts are born verbally in this setting. But, as you might also imagine, those thoughts quickly move to the whiteboard. There are poorly drawn illustrations, boxes, lines, arrows and, of course, copy.

I would argue a concept doesn’t have legs until it has a phrase to stand behind, whether that be a tagline or what I call a positioning statement. And that can come from anyone, not just the writer – creative director, designer, occasionally an account manager. But, it must be recorded and written in big, bold letters. Because we’re professional collaborators, we must all agree if a concept is going to gain legs and grow. At this point, the whiteboard musings are entrusted to the creative department’s care, myself included.

Words matter in every aspect of creative development.

The copywriter doesn’t work in a silo, though. Once we’re united behind the messaging, part of my job is working with my creative director and designers to figure out just how those words will complement the imagery. Sometimes those visuals need explanation. Sometimes it says something itself – a thousand words as they say – and I don’t need to write anything about it at all. And sometimes words are transformed into an element of design – digital, print, outdoor, social what have you.

When it comes to video production, copy drives a lot of that too. Sure, not every piece has a script, but I’ll bet you it at least has a storyboard, some type of concept mapping that requires description. So, there are those words again. I can’t think of any concept we’ve done this last decade that didn’t have some written direction to it.

That’s a peek at the internal process, but our deliverables rely on copy as well. Copy is creative in the same way design is. In advertising and marketing, copy must be consistently flawless, concise and compelling. It must help tell the story that is at the core of every concept or campaign.

So, yeah, I guess you could call me a “word nerd.” In fact, I get that a lot. But, I like to say that I tell stories for a living, which is awesome. It’s what we – all of us creatives – came for. And it continuously sharpens my focus on making every word matter – because, as I and hopefully you have learned, it always does in everything we do.

About The Author

A journalist by trade, Shane tells stories that connect brands with target audiences and inspire them to act. He’s a writer, not a copy machine, and that approach brings exceptional content to every print or digital piece he pens.

Shane taps into his past as a reporter and editor to develop clear messages that resonate in every medium, be it blog or brochure, sponsored content or script.

Daily newspapers developed a habit for idea generation, attention to detail and knack for question-asking. His background as a magazine and web editor keeps client communications grammatically sound and effective.

Shane’s word-based deliverables range from long-form features to concise digital copy to persuasive prose. He’s been on both sides of the PR pitch and puts some muscle behind ABC’s media relations.