Monday, April 23, 2012

The Long and Short of It

So. Apparently people don’t read. Therefore, because people don’t read, copywriters need to write less copy. Why? Well, because apparently people don’t read.

If you’ve reached this point in the blog then I guess you’re one of the nine people left on earth who read. Ok, I exaggerate. But isn’t that the whole point of advertising? To exaggerate?


Right. In advertising, our job as head-in-the-cloud creatives is to say, in one line or twenty, in one visual or five, ‘this product is awesome, you should buy it.’
Let’s compare the line, ‘this product is awesome, you should buy it’ to this, ‘our product is awesome, you should buy it. Winners and front-runners bought it. In fact, they have been buying it for a long time now. Where have you been? It’s alright. It’s never too late. You’ll be fine as long as you run out and buy it now. Or in the next couple of days. You need to have this product, trust us, your life would be so much fuller, cooler, healthier, easier, less stressful, more fulfilling, and all good things that mean the same thing, if you have this product. Lack of this product will make you feel the opposite of all those things mentioned above. And who wants to feel the opposite of all those things mentioned above? Your family and mistress will thank you for it! So? Are you in?’

Of course I think the second big block of copy is far more ‘interesting’ to the reader than the first one-liner. Not only because I wrote it, but because it just is.
And we all know that with interest, conviction is possible. Bob Stone, founder of Stone & Adler, and author of Successful Marketing Methods insists that, “people will read something as long as it interests them.” 

Victor O. Schwab, author of How to Write a Good Advertisement and who has spent over 44 years as an advertising copywriter (seriously!) discusses why people will read long copy. “What subjects interests your reader the most? Himself and his family. So your copy subject is what your product will do for him, or for his family… It’s amazing how much copy any person will read, willingly, if it continues to point out these consumer benefits.”

Claude Hopkins, believed to have coined the term “scientific advertising” says, “Some say be very brief, people will read but very little. Would you say that to a salesman? With the prospect standing before him, would you confine him to any certain number of words? That would be an unthinkable handicap.”

In Confessions of an Advertising Man, David Ogilvy, (if you don’t know who that is, look him up!), says, “Research shows that readership falls off rapidly up to 50 words of copy, but drops very little between 50 and 500 words. In my first Rolls Royce ad I used 719 words—piling one fascinating fact after another. In the last paragraph I wrote ‘people who feel diffident about driving a Rolls Royce can buy a Bentley.’ Judging from the number of motorists who picked up the word ‘diffident’ and bandied it about, I concluded that the advertisement was thoroughly read.”  He continues, “I could give you countless examples of long copy which has made the cash register ring, notably for Mercedes cars. Not only in the United States, but all over the world. I believe that ads with long copy convey the impression that you have something important to say, whether people read the copy or not.” And then he sticks the gun right where it hurts, “Only amateurs use short copy.”

This blog is an ad for longer copy of course, (I’m a copywriter, words are my curse,) and so I’ve done the research necessary in order to support my point. Did I sell it well?

Only last week I fell in love with an ad campaign for Aza Video, done in Brazil. “Rent movies. Keep lessons.” The copy is heavy but it’s gorgeous. (Even if it was already written as part of a film script, which of course is the whole point.)

I’m not saying copywriters should write long copy for the sake of writing long copy. If it’s long but tedious and dull, with no meaty facts or surprise element whatsoever, forget about it. If it’s long, it better be good.

If it’s short, it better be better. 

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