The Advertising Copywriting group I belong to on LinkedIn has been lit up for the past month over whether you need to have digital experience to be a digital writer. Much consternation and conversation has been generated by Steve Spence's topic of discussion:
"For the love of God will people stop asking for 'Digital Copywriters'. If you can write copy it doesn't matter a flying fandango what medium you work in. I'm sick to death of this idiot pidgeonholing" (sic)
Many of the commenters complain "good writing is good writing". Which, they argue, is why ad agencies should hire them even if they've never written a website, iMedia unit, Facebook app or tweet in their life.
Some of these writers claim the title of "digital copywriter" was likely created by self-serving youngsters trying to carve out a niche for themselves. They firmly believe agencies and marketers should look past their lack of digital experience (in spite of the fact that as senior writers, they are likely expensive). IMO, they're conveniently skirting the real issue, which is: the medium matters.
I'm not the only one who thinks so. As another group member put it (I'm paraphrasing here): many skilled writers just don't get it. Digital is a competency easily learned, but there are many who simply aren't changing with the times and actively developing new skill sets.
The elephant in the room is: why did so many traditional writers fail to embrace the future? Why didn't they see the digital writing on the wall? Advertising is an insecure industry at best. Why didn't they make more of an effort to stay current?
I am a not at all young writer who has written radio, TV, print ads, brochures, direct mail, posters, packaging, event marketing, t-shirts--you get the idea. For each medium, I learned to adapt my writing. Likewise, I went out of my way to learn how to write effective and engaging websites, Facebook apps, blog posts, videos, tweets, iMedia, etc.
My advice to ad writers who want to stay in the biz is: stop blaming employers. In a market where there's a flood of qualified applicants, employers have the right to hire those who have digital experience. And stop blaming agencies. They don't have the time or money to train you in the rules of digital, mobile, and social.Stop blaming younger writers. Stop blaming the economy. Instead, put the energy you spend blaming others into becoming more digital. Or find yourself a new career.