Monthly Archives: December 2013

The copy’s too long

No it isn’t. Yes it is. No it isn’t.

Have you ever had a conversation like this?

It doesn’t really matter if you’re on the Yes It Is side or on the No It Isn’t side.The fact is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule about the length of copy on an ad, an email, a dm letter.

The length of the copy in any particular execution should be, simply, as long as it needs to be.

It all comes down to three simple things:

* What you want the reader to do once they’ve seen the advertising

* What you’re selling

* How much it costs

Need someone to change their bank account to your bank, need someone to give money to a charity they’ve never heard of, need someone to phone for a car insurance quote, need someone to buy your tasty sausages, need someone to buy your hair dye, need someone to take out a monthly subscription to your cable TV and broadband service…

They’re all different objectives, and the length of copy should be markedly different as a result.

Wildly simplified, the more difficult the decision that you’re asking the reader to make, the more reasons you need to convince her to make it.

Asking someone to try your scrumptious sausages next time they’re in Tesco? Awareness is enough, and perhaps a bit of discount. No copy, really.

Ask someone to give money to a charity, however, and you’re going to have to convince them it’s the right thing to do. Not only are they parting with their cash, they’re not getting anything in return other than a sense of Doing The RIght Thing. (Not to be sniffed at, as a motivation, mind you.)

This is why TV direct response charity ads tend to be a minute or more (the successful ones, anyway).

Ask someone to pay £30 every month for Virgin TV, cable, broadband etc and you’re going to have to really spell out the reasons to do it if you want your response to be anything other than pitiful. Sadly, most of the marketeers running these kinds of business don’t get it. So the responses tend to be pitiful. And the mailpacks tend to be much more expensive than they need to be, too.

And the more expensive the product or service, the longer the copy needs to be generally (if you want them to sign up there and then or make the call).

But nobody reads the body copy!

If I had a fiver for every time I’ve heard this, I would have retired to the Bahamas aged 30.

It simply isn’t true.

What IS true is this: MOST people don’t read the body copy.

Actually, most people don’t even read the bloody headline.

But those people who DO read the body copy are the people you need. They’ve read the headline and decided, hmmm, I might want this. So they read on.

They’re a tiny proportion of the people who saw the ad or letter initially. But remember, you can never sell anything to someone who’s not in the market for it.

But if they are, for goodness’ sake give them enough information for them to be able to make a really informed yes or no decision. Reel them in, persuasive fact by persuasive fact to keep them hooked til the end.

And generally, crushingly sad as art directors and designers find this fact, the longer the copy, the more stuff you sell.

So if the copy needs to be four pages long to get in all the great reasons to buy or act, then four pages long is precisely the length it should be.