I got a call recently confirming a fact I discovered some time ago, something I knew about around the time I set off as a freelance copywriter.
The call I received was from one of the creative talent agencies. Yes, I was being headhunted, even though I have no idea how they have my details in their database.
Anyway, to have a talent agency contact someone who’s not been actively looking for a job for the last 4 years or so means either one of two things:
- They have absolutely no idea who they are calling, which from a talent agency specializing in advertising talents is in my book an epic fail
- The ad industry is really, really desperate for copywriters and have instructed their recruiters to go all out in search of candidates
To confirm the situation, I prodded the person on the other end of the call. “How’s the market for copywriters these days?” I asked. She replied, and I quote “agencies are looking left, right and centre for copywriters”.
The reply made me feel I had prophetic powers. I knew it, I knew it all along!
Yes, the lack of copywriters in Malaysia, especially good ones, has been one of the contributing factors in my relative success a freelancer for the last 3 years or so.
It is a trend that I noticed even when I was employed, gentle winds of change that has now culminated in an imperfect storm. Imperfect for agencies, perfect for me… I’m actually in demand.
So let’s celebrate, yes? No.
I believe the Malaysian ad industry truly had this situation coming. In fact, a lot of people in the higher-ups knew about the scarcity of good writers, but just didn’t do anything about it.
Here’s some advise ala gratis to all agencies out there. Hey, I’m a 16-year veteran who has written for everything from TVCs to T&Cs, so listen up:
- Don’t treat our work as fillers to art. We are not just caption writers spoiling nice images with those ugly words. Yes, nice images attract attention, but solid and sometimes lengthy copy retains interest and helps convert.
- We may make it look easy, but it isn’t. While the demands of advertising have evolved, we copywriters still work with the basics; our thoughts and a keyboard. There are no apps, software or tools for us. Give us time, and respect.
- Don’t let us fly solo all the time. While there could be an art director and two designers in a team, copywriters are often left to fend for themselves. Dedicate more hands for copy development, two copy heads are better than one… right?
I feel copywriting has always been second fiddle to art direction, at least in the Malaysian context. Much emphasis is given to art; with art directors and designers enjoying better career prospects compared to copywriters.
Then there’s no wonder why the influx of copywriters have stagnated over recent years. Not many people can handle the merciless, under-appreciated and often underpaid nature of the profession.
But no disrespect to the art-based players in the industry. I’ve worked with many exceptional ones and truly believe they are creative wizards given the constraints, deadlines and demands of a fast-evolving ad scene.
I just wish – now that the year is drawing to a close – the decisions makers pay more attention to the development of great copywriting talents.
A rather cerebral New Year wish, but for the good of the game, I hope it becomes a reality.
Cheers to all the copywriters out there – employed or otherwise – you do it because it is your calling.
Happy New Year!
(as the saying goes) …Shit.
So, after all the partying, hangovers, reminiscing and resolutions; we are greeted by the daily grind.
In advertising, that means more last minute rush jobs, late nights, over-the-weekend special bonuses and new business pitches. No one said it was going to be easy, but I think we addies somehow enjoy the pain.
Here’s to another year of adver-chaos, no matter where you are. But for us in Boleh-land, don’t worry, CNY is just round the corner. You just got to love Malaysia sometimes!
Possibly what you can expect all over again this year, thanks to Advergirl:
Have you ever seen something that was not right, and knew you could make it right, but made no attempt because it was not your job? I know I have, and I’m not proud of it.
In an ideal situation, everyone should have everyone else’s backs in an agency, especially in the studio. This is of course easier said than done in an environment with looming deadlines and unforgiving hours. But if you spot something that’s out of place or just wrong – be it in copy, design or common sense – then it becomes your duty to raise the flag.
Yes, even when it’s not your job. Here’s an example of what can happen if you don’t:
I recently browsed the new Malaysia Tourism website, which was easy on the eyes, well-constructed and a breeze to navigate. Then I clicked on About Malaysia and everything seemed fine until I found an external link to a Malaysian government portal. I clicked on this link that promised ‘more information’ and landed on…
I was like what the 4uck?! This looks like website from the 90s that has obviously been designed put together by nitwits. What kind of impression will this site leave on a prospective tourist? And since the site was in Bahasa Malaysia by default, I looked to see if I could at least change that. So I located the language option drop down menu and clicked on it to realise that there was no other language option besides Bahasa Malaysia. Genius!
I’m sure someone noticed this glaring stupidity and decided it was not his job to mention it. This Malaysian Government portal does not serve any purpose to prospective tourists, especially it being in a language that only Malaysians can read.
The solution is as easy as unlinking the site from the Malaysia Tourism portal. Unless, it is not possible to unlink because it is an executive decision to have the link.
In that case, there’s only one thing to say… Welcome to Malaysia!