A sign advertising Castle Lager stands on an exterior wall at the SABMiller Alrode brewery and bottling plant. Picture: BLOOMBERG
A sign advertising Castle Lager stands on an exterior wall at the SABMiller Alrode brewery and bottling plant. Picture: BLOOMBERG

In the complex world of advertising, what’s really doing the selling: the image or the copy? The reality is that both play an integral part in the selling process for almost every piece of design and campaign. So wherein lies the invisible harmony between eye-catching imagery and cleverly written copy?

Image and colour are the first things that grab our scattered attention, drawing consumers in to read the copy. For most people, visuals are processed faster, with copy providing the context for a clearer, more concrete understanding. Modern designers tend to give imagery preference, with copy reduced to an afterthought. Though it’s often strictly placed and dictated by a brand’s corporate identity, copy can do a lot of creative heavy lifting.

Neither image nor copy will stand out unless it is based on a solid concept. Designers and copywriters work closely during the conception process, and this common ground is where effective collaboration is critical. No designer enjoys doing his or her job by committee, but even unwelcome advice can result in a great piece of work. A strong interplay between a designer and a copywriter will bring out the best in each other’s discipline.

The big take-out:

In effective advertising, design and copy have to live in harmony.

Creatives continuously come into contact with influences, compiling personal databases of visual and mental stimuli. Consulting and sharing a treasure trove of creativity during the concept phase is how strong ideas develop. For designers, it’s essential to be able to rely on a copywriter’s skills set to outline and convey ideas, as well as to provide the words to bring them to life. For copywriters, a designer’s visual cues lead the way for word selection to ensure the end product gets consumers’ attention. Every agency has a concept process, but great collaboration between design and copy is essential.

Award-winning concepts can sometimes be derived from a few descriptive words – words that spark an idea. Those magical words are what designers want people to think and feel when they view and engage with a concept. To achieve this, every design and copy element has to live in harmony. Every element has to communicate the same message clearly and concisely. Within this harmony, it’s the concept that is produced through collaboration that does the selling, and it always will be.

• Nick de Beer is Creative Group Head at Boomtown.

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