The inaugural Copy Cabana copywriting conference held yesterday at Silicon Beach in Bournemouth exceeded all my expectations.
While it’s still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d share my favourite talks from the day – along with my key takeaways (which may well not be the same as other people’s).
All of the speakers at Copy Cabana 2016 were great. All of the presentations they gave were interesting, insightful or entertaining in their own way.
But some resonated with me more than others. And for different reasons…
Most eloquent talk
This ‘award’ goes to the incredibly talented Deanna Rodger. It’s easy to see why she’s been named one of ELLE UK’s 30 inspirational women under 30. As a poet and spoken word performer, she has a most captivating and authentic presentation style. Despite having the dubious honour of going on first, Deanna wowed the audience with her stunning delivery.
Key takeaway: It’s not only about what you say, but how you say it.
Most creative talk
Anyone who watched TV in the run up to Christmas last year will be familiar with the “Man In The Moon” ad for John Lewis. This was co-created by Miles Carter in his role as copywriter at Adam&EveDDB. Miles gave a fascinating peep behind the process involved in coming up with such a high profile ad. He also got one of the biggest laughs of the day with his memorable line “Is it in yet?” (in other words, “Are you feeling it?”) when discussing the importance of creating emotion.
Key takeaway: Be the brand. Don’t fight it; embrace it. Then try to push the boundaries and tone of voice from within.
Most provocative talk
The outright winner of this one was copywriter, director and comedy writer Pete Cain. I’m not normally a fan of talks that involve a lot of swearing, especially the C word, but in Pete’s case I’ll make an exception. All too often people resort to swearing purely for effect. Yet with Pete it’s clearly an integral part of who he is and his rebellious approach to life. He certainly gave us some interesting insights to the world of advertising – past and present. And ended with a rallying call to all the ad copywriters in the room to stop writing s**t ads!
Key takeaway: Decide what you’re willing to give away, but defend the fundamentals of your idea by being “obstinately polite”. Or was it “politely obstinate”?!
Most thought-provoking talk
The talk by Debbie Coats, Clinical Information Manager at Cancer Research UK, couldn’t have been more of a polar opposite to the (largely) frivolous nature of TV ads. A former nurse, Debbie writes for people with cancer, and their relatives. As a fan of Plain English, I found it really interesting to hear about the challenge of presenting complex medical information and hard-to-hear truths in an empathetic, easy-to-understand but reassuring way. For example, instead of writing oesophagus they use food pipe.
Key takeaway: Simply changing you’ll to you will or your to the can change the effect the content has on the reader. This is the opposite way around to the usual copywriting advice, but in their case it can make the words seem more respectful and less direct.
This one undoubtedly belongs to the bright and bubbly Caitlin Breeze, copywriter at Saatchi & Saatchi. Instead of the copywriting tips I’d expected, it was really refreshing to hear a completely different perspective on the art of writing. After explaining that her talk was going to get “a bit nerdy”, she very cleverly demonstrated how the likes of Julius Caesar, Lord Byron, Virgina Woolfe and Charles Dickens used language to build a brand, get famous, make people fall in love and learn compassion.
Key takeaway: Choose your tone by selecting between Germanic and Latinate words: dynamic Germanic words add drama and impact; authoritative Latinate words show expertise.
After such a great first event, I’m already looking forward to Copy Cabana 2017 for some more insightful, dynamic, inspiring talks from leading players in the industry. Along with more of those amazing brownies!