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As content competes with advertising as a business and marketing tool, commercial writers (like me) are seeing shifts in the skills that we need to keep our work relevant.

Copywriting, especially in the context of advertising, has been one of the most storied and influential creative roles in marketing. Advertising legends like Leo Burnett, Mary Wells, and Lester Wunderman started their careers as copywriters.

David Ogilvy, my professional role model who built a global agency where I spent nine years, worked as a salesman, researcher, and writer before he became an agency CEO and industry icon. But he said he ultimately wanted to be remembered as "a copywriter who had some big ideas." Before anything else, he wanted to be remembered as a writer.

Modern marketing still needs copywriting. But the skills and experience required to succeed in today's era of content has created new demands on copywriters.

Great ideas in the content era still spark a conversation, but ideas alone won't sustain all the interactions companies have with consumers. And content—whether a blog post, a video series, a game, an infographic, or a whitepaper—requires far more than a smart headline, tempting offer, or strong call to action to have any real currency with customers.

Roles of the Modern Copywriter

The modern writer needs to be the master of many trades. He or she has to be a researcher and salesman. Instead of going door to door to poll customers, however, today's writers are using search intent modeling to find out what people want and the actual words they use to describe it.

The modern copywriter has to be a scientist, too, understanding data patterns and deciphering which strategies work and which don't.

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image of Mat Zucker

Mat Zucker is a digital Partner and content strategy leader at Prophet, a global brand consultancy. Mat is a contributor to Forbes and has written for Digiday, Adweek, DMNews, Creativity, and Ad Age.

LinkedIn: Mat Zucker