This year, COVID restrictions meant that the Copywriting Conference 2021 was a little unorthodox. Instead of zipping on a train to a conference hall packed full of bright-eyed copywriters, we lumbered into the rooms adjacent to our bedrooms, watched the convention through our computer screens and networked over instant messenger. And all while still in our dressing gowns.
Though the setting was a little underwhelming, the lineup was anything but. The schedule was stacked with experienced and acclaimed copywriters sharing their knowledge from across the discipline. From a bread-and-butter overview of the copywriting fundamentals, to an analysis of an AI-generated, toast-themed Shakespearen sonnet, the conference truly covered all bases.
There’s simply too much to talk about in a single blog post, so we’ve picked four of our favourites.
How to be funny (...even if you’re not)
Copywriting and humour can be a match made in heaven, but only if employed at the right time, in the right way and for the right client. Lianna Patch, a professional copywriter and improv enthusiast, spoke about her experience combining copy smarts and comedy.
Lianna began by addressing the elephant in the room - humour can be uncomfortable. We like to think of ourselves as serious writers, and we don’t want to risk embarrassing ourselves or our clients with jokes that fall flat or offend the readers.
But when done right, humour can be a powerful copywriting tool. Lianna spoke about how humour activates parts of the brain associated with happiness and fulfilment. Humour can alleviate anxiety and boost information recall; readers remember why they laughed and what they learned in that moment.
And Lianna wasn’t wrong. Thanks to the various jokes peppered throughout the presentation, her tips on how to use humour, how to write humour and how to pick your humour topic have been stuck in my mind ever since, proving that humorous writing can have a serious impact.
Humour isn’t the only way to experiment with your copy. Ross Simmond, a digital marketing strategist and founder of Foundation Marketing, presented a talk about experimenting with different platforms to boost your profile and improve your copy.
Experiments can be scary, but Ross quelled fears by showing how even some of the biggest brands have failed in their experiments. Both Amazon and Coca Cola embrace experimentation - and the failures that come with it - and use the outcomes to learn and adapt.
Speaking from experience, Ross touched on his own journey publishing content on Reddit and Quora. He spoke about his successes, his failures and how he embraced the chaos by trying out new things. His journey helped him craft an ‘experiment formula’ that he continues to use to this day: build, ship, learn, decide. It was with this mantra that Ross discovered what worked and what didn’t, and used his findings to boost his career.
Have we lost the ability to sell?
A rather divisive, yet thought-provoking, talk came from acclaimed copywriter, Steve Harrison, based on his book Can’t Sell, Won’t Sell. His argument was that modern ad agencies are focussing their efforts so much on pushing social change and making points with their campaigns, that they have actually lost the ability, or will, to sell.
I think we’ve all seen examples of this - an advert that spends time talking about their sustainability achievements rather than promoting their products, or a campaign that raises awareness of a health condition rather than the benefits of their brand. It seems like a responsible, bold thing to do, right?
Well, Harrison argues that this growing trend and approach to marketing can be alienating to audiences, and can result in readers failing to engage or relate to the products or services. This talk certainly made me ponder as to whether it is our responsibility as marketing and ad agencies to use our platforms to champion social and environmental change, or whether our sole focus should always be selling to the consumer. Perhaps it’s just a matter of aiming for a healthy blend of both?
But what do you think?
Root your voice, create your tone
A standout talk came from Emily Ames, co-founder and strategy director of copy agency, Sonder & Tell. She made the point that every brand needs a strong tone of voice that expresses personality and is unique to a company - something that all copy professionals know.
But what made us a fan of the talk was that, as well as underlining the importance of tone of voice, she also provided us with practical tips that we could actually implement ourselves.
Emily outlined a simple three step approach that began with rooting the voice firmly in the brand by asking a list of questions to get to the core of who you are as a company. She then followed with guidance on how to create this tone of voice and stressed the importance of consistency in order to be successful.
These were just our key takeaways from a jam-packed programme that was full of industry tidbits, inside knowledge and handy hints. While it’s too much to explore in one article, we’d like to thank all the speakers and organisers at the Copywriting Conference 2021, and we can’t wait for 2022.