No one wants to read long copy. No one has the time to read long copy – they’re too busy living their hectic lives, checking their phones, running to their next meeting. Long copy will never work as well as a short, catchy one liner. It’s 2015, and humans communicate in texts, whatsapps, tweets… even tweets can be too long sometimes. ‘Slate’ recorded that only 60% of people will scroll through a whole article online, and ‘Trap.it’ suggest that people read a mere 62 words on a webpage before they move on.
The average human’s attention span is now less than a goldfish’s – it lasts a whole 8 seconds. So everything needs to be easily digestible within an 8 second window, otherwise your time is up and your consumer’s mind has drifted off to outer space remembering the funny cat video they watched on YouTube yesterday.
Anyway… yes, in some cases this may indeed be true. However I’m still championing the long copy ad, that there’s still a place for it in our fast paced world of advertising and design.
In 1963, David Ogilvy (advertising man extraordinaire) said…
“There is a universal belief in circles that people won’t read long copy. Nothing could be farther from the truth.”
Yes true, that is over 50 years ago, and a lot has changed since then. He also went on to say 20 years later…
“All my experience says that for a great many products, long copy sells more than short… I believe, without any research to support me, that advertisements with long copy convey the impression that you have something important to say, whether people read the copy or not.”
Now having something important to say is one thing that can differentiate a brand. Maybe this brand stands for something, that can’t be explained in a few short words. In a world of consumer throwaway culture, maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this will catch the eye of a reader, in a magazine which is glossy image after glossy image… maybe the reader wants something to read.
The Royal Parks Foundations’ ad has a lot to say, for example. It has a lot to say about squirrels.
I stand by what David Ogilvy’s quote, and I raise him to another point. Long copy can make you feel. If written well, long copy can take you to a faraway place, just like the Royal Park’s example shows… even if it is just to the life of a squirrel. Long copy can spin a web of glorious magical words around your mind that make you imagine what it would be like to live in a world where anything is possible.
Visual ads on the other hand conjure up in your mind the image that the advertiser wants you to see. With a copy ad you conjure up the image in your own mind, and that can sometimes be much more powerful. Just like when you read a book, and become so stuck with the idea of the characters you have in your mind, that you refuse to see the film when it comes out. Imagination is the key.
Long copy can make you feel, and it can make you think. We can look to Minds for Minds for an example of that.
Sometimes it’s the thinking after you’ve read the copy that stays with you. It’s like a good book that plays on your mind months after you’ve read it, or the poem that you still remember from school. We are all frustrated designers after all, and we don’t like to let go of our own thinking.
Naturally there is a place for long copy, and there’s also places that it shouldn’t necessarily be used. Billboards for example… no matter how fantastic your long copy ad is, you don’t want to be causing car accidents because people just can’t tear their eyes away from the story. There’s a place for everything, and cleverly crafted copy can be used in a multitude of mediums in order to create optimum impact. It just needs a little more thought.
At the end of the day, long copy is only going to work if there’s a good hook. Hook, line and sinker – it has to have a good storyline, you have to want to read on. However it’s definitely not a lost art… the copy just has to work harder in order to captivate the reader. When looking for long copy ads for this blog post, I struggled to find any modern outstanding ones; but I think that there’s still something in long copy, be it nostalgic or not.
After all, we all have stories to tell… and so do brands.
Written by Emmy