understanding copy in the digital era

digital is where it’s at and where it’s headed. in this new world, information bombards potential prospects from every turn, and to adapt, they’ve become selective in what earns their attention. as copywriters, it’s our job to keep up and engage a new, slightly more distracted audience.

for pointers on approaching the digital realm, The Copy Lab invited copywriter and brand strategist jean railla to share her insight on digital writing techniques.

working with computer

copy should be short, specific and straightforward
you have as few as three seconds to convince a user to keep reading. it’s imperative that a site is easy to navigate and quick to scan. to-the-point heads and subheads, bullets, pull quotes and graphics are all effective techniques for enhancing scannability. display key messaging in the upper left, where the eye goes first, and congregate important points from the top down.

engage your brand’s “influencers”
great success has been had when brands interact online with the people who love them. know your voice and stick with it to strengthen the connection to your audience. no detail is too small: don’t underestimate the power of personalizing your site’s feedback or error messages — they could provide even more opportunity for branded wordplay.

copywriter = tour guide
there is no beginning or end to the web, which means users can (and will) enter a site from other than its homepage. it’s up to the copywriter (you!) to provide direction and make it clear where or what readers should do next. CTAs should be short and clear: sign up today; request more information; download now.

consistency is a must-do
if you call it a cart instead of a shopping cart, make sure it appears that way everywhere. put together a vocab list and pull from it as you write — it will keep your copy on brand and help orient the user. avoid outdated “click here to…” directions and opt for action-oriented “learn more” with a link.

the digital landscape moves quickly…the most successful copywriters will keep pace. connect with other writers and creatives at The Copy Lab’s upcoming speed-date networking event on tuesday, april 16. reserve your spot now. it’s an event not to be missed.

–meredith clinton bell

billboards: big potential for interactive creativity

if you have a fertile imagination, billboards present an irresistible challenge because they’re a flexible platform.  you can:

  • have material blow in the wind
  • grow something on them
  • utilize the rain and other elements
  • feature strategic lighting, strategic cutouts, mirrors, odd shapes, things moving, spinning, dripping, flashing, twinkling, or smoking.
  • create interactive billboards with cameras (as in Times Square)
  • waft a fragrance

as Luke Sullivan pointed out in “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!” if you create a mediocre billboard, it’s going to be mediocre on a grand scale, so it has to be  interesting.

McDonald’s had greens growing on a billboard to advertise its fresh salad bar offerings, and created a round egg billboard that cracked open every day to advertise breakfast meals.

if you can think of a way for people to interact with your billboard, then you’re golden: they can text in a response to a question or game, or stand before a camera to be blown up onto a big screen. maybe readers could pick basil leaves off a billboard for Primavera Spaghetti Sauce, or capture bubbles spewing from a billboard for Mr. Bubbles. birth announcements posted on the Target Baby Facebook page were translated to a billboard in the los angeles Kodak Theater, then a picture was taken to pass along to the proud parents, as an example of interactivity from Wieden + Kennedy (portland).

highway billboards should be eye-catching and inspire comment or action. drivers typically have 8 seconds to read them, unless they’re stuck in traffic for hours, in which case, an interactive billboard would be perfect for whiling the hours away.

check out these incredible billboards, and let us know your favorites: 50 extraordinary and attractive billboards.

kim taylor

for more information on our membership and events, visit The Copy Lab.

6 reasons not to miss this!

Creatives: The Copy Lab has R/GA’s award-winning copywriter Jenna Livingston on deck to give the low-down on crafting amazing alternative and experiential concepts (plus R/GA creative recruiters will be there!) oct. 24, 7-9:30 @ flatiron lounge. for info & to sign up: www.thecopylabnyc.com/Events

ten challenges of a creative career

when it comes to the world of advertising, there is so much to be grateful for: Blendtec’s: “Will it Blend?,” Volkswagen’s The Force, and, of course, the Old Spice Guy. but the industry has its issues just like any other. so while many were enjoying the mingling and merriment of The Copy Lab’s launch party last week, i ventured into the crowd to get the inside scoop on what ails the average creative.

yes, call me “debbie downer,” but after surveying guests of all ages and experience levels for the majority of the evening, i was very pleased with a roundup of results that i believe honestly reflect a broad spectrum of areas in which many struggle. some had to think long and hard, while others jumped right in, venting fervently about problems they were currently facing. maybe you can also identify with these ten issues:

  1. developing a thick skin and a good sense of humor to combat negativity and criticism
  2. spending more time in meetings than you have to actually get work done
  3. getting enough work as a freelancer to support yourself in such a competitive industry
  4. trying to maintain your own voice and sense of style
  5. having your work “revised” by clients or CDs to the point where you don’t even recognize it anymore
  6. dealing successfully with the creative egos of coworkers in order to produce great work
  7. there’s less time to do great work because clients are not paying as much as they used to but still want great work even more quickly
  8. determining what to put in your book so it actually reflects your style and not just work clients force you to do
  9. trying to keep up with innovations in portfolio appearance (i.e. digital vs. keeping a physical book)
  10. women can be very catty and competitive with other women, making it difficult to find support, encouragement and guidance when trying to make career moves

do you see anything missing that should be added to this list? we’d love your feedback. stay tuned for future posts full of tips to help you overcome these challenges, which will hopefully lead to improved work, a better environment and an overall happier career.

kendria smith

for more information on our membership and events, visit The Copy Lab.