The good old Copy Test should identify talent…

David Bernstein’s view on the plight of today’s advertising copywriters (Private View, DW 21 May) was spot on, and raises interesting questions about the kind of writers the communications industry is recruiting. This is something the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising is seeking to address by reintroducing the advertising agency Copy Test.

Bernstein asserts that ‘today’s copywriter has to work harder’. Yet today’s students of advertising are not required to work harder as far as copywriting is concerned.

The identikit creative teams that come out of many (not all) art and further education colleges are taught to think conceptually. Some of them are brilliant at it, but the copywriting side is seldom pursued with the rigour that it should be, so copy is not taught as a specialisation.

There’s a huge, untapped pool of talent out there, of people who are well-versed in writing in different forms – essays, dissertations, critiques, blogs, e-mails, tweets and the like – that the industry is overlooking. These students know how to engage in shortform writing, and how to present an argument in longer form because their (nonmedia) courses demand it.

And as agencies strive to earn readers’ involvement in more channels, this ability to write in a variety of forms will become ever more important.

Not everyone knows at the age of 15 that they want to be a copywriter. So why not look to people who have a proven ability to flesh out an idea in words and think conceptually, rather than taking a chance on someone who, perhaps grudgingly, agrees to be the writing half of the team?

You’ve got to love words and writing to be a copywriter. It’s our hope that the new IPA Copy Test will prove to be an effective way of discovering this talent like it used to years ago, when the likes of Salman Rushdie and Fay Weldon demonstrated their ability to write great ads before going on to better (?) things.

Neil Francis, Creative partner, Stephens Francis Whitson, London SW1 and member of IPA Creative Forum

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