Body Copy: A Dying Art

A week ago I was called in to help do some finessing on a big pitch. One of the things I was asked to do was to write body copy for the ads.

Working from home, I wrote four pieces and sent them off. The CDs in charge of the pitch loved them. So much in fact, they asked me to write body copy for the rest of what they were presenting.

Here’s the secret: I’m not the world’s best copywriter. But I do care about body copy. I do try to craft it. And I do try to give it a voice. That’s really quite rare in this business.

It’s very easy to fill up body copy with cliches and aphorisms and words like “introducing,” and “finally.” And why not? Everyone’s doing it, and no one reads body copy anyway.

The truth is probably 10% of consumers read body copy, 80% of creative directors reviewing your book read it, and 100% of the people supervising this pitch were reading it.

If you care about body copy, writing it becomes easy. If you don’t care, it’s a headache. It’s having to get out of bed because you forgot to take out the garbage. It’s torture.

My portfolio school professor used to say writing body copy was a dying art. I agree. But if you can become proficient in that art, you’ll stand out.

2 thoughts on “Body Copy: A Dying Art

  1. Hi Greg,Great post. I am also a copywriter who works hard to write what I hope is good body copy.Because I generally enjoy it and find it to be one of my strengths (especially after comparison between other student/junior books I’ve seen), and something I’d like to leverage in my book. And I’m not talking about long-form headlines either, where headlines–by virtue of typographic size and length in words–disguise themselves as body copy.My question is this: Because 80% of CDs aren’t going to read it (which I’ve also found to be true)is there a form that showcases body copy best? The traditional spread? A viral letter? A long copy campaign? A script? How do you showcase body copy as a strength in your student book?Thanks,Nick

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  2. Nick, my short answer would be to get a copy of the Copywriter’s Bible and try to mimic one of those campaigns. Yeah, they look dated. But if you read them, they’re still incredibly compelling.Do people even do ads like this anymore? Absolutely. Not near as frequently as they used to, but you can still find them in the annuals. What’s more, a CD who knows you can really write is more likely to hire you than someone who only has a bunch of visual solutions in a book.Here’s my longer answer:Coming out of school, my goal was to have a very diverse book; I had a campaign that was just visual solutions, one that was very headline driven, a couple with medium copy, etc. I had one very long copy piece that I was very proud of.Everyone I showed this to admitted later on that as soon as they saw it, they didn’t want to read it. But they all said I sucked them in with the first couple sentences and they found themselves reading all three columns. I worked really, really hard on every single sentence so I was glad to hear it paid off.My point is, long copy has to be so captivating, even the people who don’t want to read it end up reading it. (Honestly, I got really lucky. It’s no coincidence I had it as a one-off and not a whole campaign.)As a writer, you’ve got to show that you can write. Not just as an endurance exercise, but as someone who really wants to craft those words.Hope this helps.

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