It’s not exactly a surprise to the copywriting world, but traditional “interrupt” marketing techniques are losing ground to “softer” engagement marketing techniques, and the switch is picking up steam.

Proof can be found in an excellent New York Times article, which outlines the extent to which marketing giant Nike is already channeling its marketing budget into engagement marketing:

Last year, Nike spent just 33 percent of its $678 million United States advertising budget on ads with television networks and other traditional media companies. That’s down from 55 percent 10 years ago, according to the trade publication Advertising Age.

”We’re not in the business of keeping the media companies alive,” Mr. Edwards says he tells many media executives. ”We’re in the business of connecting with consumers.” (emphasis added)

If you’re in advertising sales, you wince at that last paragraph.

Nike’s “Nike+” running site is a social network for runners. No Michael Jordan ads here.

Nike — the 800-pound interrupt marketing gorilla in the sports world — is increasingly betting on social media, branded content and engagement marketing (where brands engage with the passions and values of their customers).

For example, many of Nike’s video efforts aren’t even broadcast; they’re simply released as viral videos. Plus, Nike’s investing in social networks sites (like the Nike+ running site shown above) — and all this at the expense of their traditional advertising budget.

Nike’s not alone; from the same New York Times article:

Add it up, and the money flowing out of the traditional media is huge — even at a time when ad budgets in general are growing, advertising research shows. The 25 companies that spent the most on advertising over the last five years cut their spending last year in traditional media by about $767 million, according to Advertising Age and TNS Media Intelligence.

And in the first half of this year, those companies decreased their media spending an additional 3 percent, or $446 million, to $14.53 billion, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

I discussed the implications in greater depth on my Engagement Principles blog. And I believe the New York Times article should be mandatory reading for any copywriter more than a few months away from retirement.

What’s this mean to you? In truth, copywriters have always wanted to engage their readers — it’s just that we lacked the technology to do so affordably.

It’s likely that copywriters will be writing more branded/engagement copy (and fewer ads) in the future. It’s also likely long-running programs will take the place of one-off projects, a change which bodes well for revenues.

How Can the Modern Copywriter Benefit?

First, learn about concepts like “customer lifetime value” and RFM (recency, frequency and money). After all, we’re marketers, not word jockeys.

Second, it’s helpful to test-fly engagement technologies before you tell a client you understand them (and find yourself under a tight deadline). Looking foolish is bad.

Third, bookmark the New York Times article, and use the most compelling figures in your own client pitches. For example, someone asks you to bid on an e-newsletter. Every other writer simply responds with a price.

You respond with a price, and justify it with background, trends data, compelling statistics — maybe even a project ROI analysis.

Now tell me — who’s going to get the job?

Keep writing, Tom Chandler.

[tags]copywriter, copywriting, engagement marketing, marketing, nike, nike+,, relationship marketing[/tags]