Why words are vital to advertising

Copy can often be overlooked in advertising in favour of the seduction of images. But in fact they are a creative’s most powerful weapon, argues Ben Kay

Poor old words. A picture is worth a thousand of them, actions speak louder than them, and, as Boyzone so sagely observed, ‘It’s only words’.

But if we leave clichés aside, words are in fact the primary component of creation. For a start, Lingualism asserts that thought can’t exist without language, and even if you disagree with that, it’s obvious that nothing gets created without the use of verbal communication at some point in the process.

Has there ever been a great ad that was entirely wordless? Even those ‘picture + logo’ combinations that flooded Cannes in the early 2000s required the name of the product to act as both punchline and signature. Sure, Bic, Snickers and Land Rover aren’t the most persuasive pieces of copy in history, but without them the ads would have been meaningless.