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âëèÿíèÿ íà ïîòðåáèòåëÿ è ìåõàíèçìå ôîðìèðîâàíèÿ åãî ðåøåíèÿ î ïðèîáðåòåíèè
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Êëàóäîì Õîïêèíñîì â åãî
êëàññè÷åñêîé ðàáîòå íà÷àëà ïðîøëîãî âåêà
Scientific Advertising. Îí
ðàññìàòðèâàë ýòîò âîïðîñ â ðàìêàõ åãî îáùåé èäåè î ïðåâðàùåíèÿ ïðîöåññà
ñîçäàíèÿ ðåêëàìû â íàóêó.
Ñ òåõ ïîð
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ìåæäèñöèïëèíàðíûõ ðàçðàáîòîê: ïñèõîëîãèè, ñîöèîëîãèè, èññëåäîâàíèÿ ðûíêà,
ýêîíîìèêè, ñåìèîòèêè, èíôîðìàòèêè è ò.ä. Íî ìíîãèå «ïðîñòåíüêèå» ïðîáëåìû
ïîêà îñòàþòñÿ îòêðûòûìè.
ïîáëàãîäàðòü Äæîðäæà Äåììåðà çà ðàçðåøåíèå îïóáëèêîâàòü åãî ñòàòüþ íà íàøåì
In all my years of
creating advertising, there is one question that I have been asked more
often than any other. One issue that has caused me more problems with
clients than any other. One particular advertising and direct marketing
approach that creates more concern and disbelief than any other.
So, what is this
“No one is really
going to read all that copy, are they?”
Well, since I’m
tired of answering this question myself, I propose that we ask some of the
all-time greats in the history of advertising and direct marketing what they
think about this issue.
Let’s see what
they have to say...
David Ogilvy (1911- )
David Ogilvy is probably
the most famous advertising personality there is. He not only built the
agency he founded, Ogilvy & Mather, into one of the biggest and most
successful in the world, he also wrote two popular books on the subject:
Confessions of an Advertising Man in 1963 and Ogilvy on Advertising in 1983.
In Confessions, he had
the following to say on the subject of long copy:
There is a universal
belief in lay circles that people won’t read long copy. Nothing could be
farther from the truth.
Claude Hopkins once wrote five pages of solid text for Schlitz beer. In
a few months, Schlitz moved up from fifth place to first. I once wrote a
page of solid text for Good Luck Margarine, with most gratifying results.
should be a complete sales pitch for your product. It is unrealistic to
assume that consumers will read a series of advertisements for the same
product. You should shoot the works in every advertisement, on the
assumption that it is the only chance you will ever have to sell your
product to the reader—now or never.
Says Dr. Charles Edwards
of the Graduate School of Retailing, at New York University, “the more facts
you tell, the more you sell. An advertisement’s chance for success
invariably increases as the number of pertinent merchandise facts included
in the advertisement increases.”
Ogilvy goes on to
discuss some of his personal experiences with long copy ads and shares an
anecdote which to this day remains the best explanation of what kind of copy
people like to read:
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 advertisement I used 719
words—piling one fascinating fact on 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. In
the next one I used 1,400 words.
We have even been able
to get people to read long copy about gasoline. One of our Shell
advertisements contained 617 words, and 22% of male readers read more than
half of them.
Vic Schwab [you’ll hear more from him later] tells the story of Max Hart
(of Hart, Schaffner & Marx) and his advertising manager, George L. Dyer,
arguing about long copy. Dyer said, “I’ll bet you $10 I can write a
newspaper page of solid type and you’d read every word of it.”
Hart scoffed at the
idea. “I don’t have to write a line of it to prove my point,” Dyer replied.
“I’ll only tell you the headline: ‘This Page is All About Max Hart’.”
Twenty years later, in
Ogilvy on Advertising, he had even more to say on the subject:
All my experience says
that for a great many products, long copy sells more than short. [He then
goes on to give numerous examples of successful long copy ads.] I could give
you countless other examples of long copy which has made the cash register
ring, notably for Mercedes cars. Not only in the United States, but all over
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.
advertisers know that short copy doesn’t sell. In split run tests, long copy
invariably outsells short copy.
Later, he explains one
of the most important differences between the long and short copy styles of
Advertising people have
an unconscious belief that advertisements have to look like advertisements.
They have inherited graphic conventions which telegraph to the reader, "This
is only an advertisement. Skip it."
There is no law which
says that advertisements have to look like advertisements. If you make them
look like editorial pages, you will attract more readers. Roughly six times
as many people read the average article as the average advertisement. Very
few advertisements are read by more than one reader in twenty. I conclude
that editors communicate better than admen.
If you pretend you are
an editor, you will get better results. When the magazine insists that you
slug your ads with the word advertisement, set it in italic caps, in
reverse. Then nobody can read it.
If you abandon the
conventional graphics of advertisements and adopt editorial graphics, your
campaigns will become islands of good taste in an ocean of vulgarity.
In a later chapter,
Ogilvy puts an exclamation point on his argument:
Long copy sells more
than short copy, particularly when you are asking the reader to spend a lot
of money. Only amateurs use short copy.
John Caples (1900-1990)
John Caples is
considered by many in the industry as the ultimate guru of advertising, and
his book, Tested Advertising Methods is the closest thing there is to an
advertising bible. Originally written in 1938, Caples himself revised the
book four times until the late 70’s, and a fifth edition, published in 1997
and edited by Fred Hahn, has been issued posthumously. Here’s what he has to
say on our subject:
The short copy ads, set
in poster style and containing only a few words of copy or a slogan, are
usually used by advertisers who are unable to trace the direct sales results
from their advertisements.
Advertisers who can
trace the direct sales results from their ads use long copy because it pulls
better than short copy. For example, the book club advertisers, the record
clubs, and the correspondence school advertisers use ads containing 500 to
1500 words of copy. Also, you will find that real-estate advertisers, patent
medicine advertisers, and classified advertisers put as much selling copy
into their ads as the space will allow. These people cannot afford to run
so-called “reminder copy.” They have to get immediate sales from every ad.
Advertisers who sell
their goods and services by means of direct mail letters have found it
profitable to use long copy in their advertising. Long copy is such a tested
and proven success that the four-page direct mail letter has become a rule
rather than an option. Where the instruction used to be “Say whatever you
must say, then stop,” it now is, “Say it in four pages and make it worth
This does not mean that
long copy should be used merely for the sake of filling space. Long copy
should be used in order to crowd in as many sales arguments as possible.
Here are some additional
points Caples makes with regard to length of copy:
Advocates of short copy
say, “I don’t think anybody will read all that small print. Let’s cut the
copy down to a couple of paragraphs and set it in 18-point type.”
What the advocates of
short copy should say, if they want to be accurate, is this: “I don’t think
everybody will read all that small print.” This is perfectly true. Everybody
will not read it. But the fact is that the very people you are most
interested in will read your ad. These are the prospects who will buy your
product or service if you tell them sufficient reasons for doing so.
The question arises: Why
wouldn’t it pay the short-copy users to make their advertising do the utmost
selling job by including more sales talk? Answer: the chances are that it
would pay them.
Here is a solution to
the problem of long copy versus short copy that should satisfy the champions
of both sides of the question. Put a brief selling message into your
headline and subheadings. Put your detailed message into small print. In
this way, you accomplish two things: (1) You get a brief message across to
glancers with your headline and subheads. (2) You give a complete message in
small print to the person who is sufficiently interested in your product to
read about it.
Tested Advertising Methods Caples goes on to say:
After you have found
your most efficient size ad, you should jam your space full of copy, no
matter whether it is a one-inch ad or a full-page ad.
copy consisting of a few words or a slogan does not pull inquiries as well
as long copy packed with facts and reader benefits about your product or
If you want to see
efficient use of space, look at mail order catalogs or at the mail-order ads
in magazines or in your Sunday newspaper. Some of the strongest-pulling
mail-order ads have contained as many as 1200 words of copy set in small
print. Don’t be afraid to use long copy or small print. Just be sure that
your copy is interesting.
In his 1983 book How to
Make Your Advertising Make Money, Caples says:
Ads with lots of facts
are effective. And don’t be afraid of long copy. If your ad is interesting,
people will read all the copy you can give them. If the ad is dull, short
copy won’t save it.
Later in the book, he
devotes an entire chapter to long copy ads entitled “How Editorial Style Ads
can Bring Increased Sales.” After discussing numerous highly successful
examples he says:
If you use the editorial
style approach, you will have a powerful factor working in your favor.
People buy newspapers and magazines to read editorial material—not ads.
Readership studies show that the reading of editorial material is five times
as great as the reading of advertising.
Now that we’ve heard
from—arguably—the two most famous men in advertising history, let’s ask some
of the real pioneers in the field for their views on long copy.
Claude Hopkins was one
of the first to carefully study and test the results of different approaches
in advertising. He is believed to have coined the term “scientific
advertising” to describe the approach, and his 1923 book by that name
remains one of the all-time classics in the field. Not only did his work
inspire many of the advertising giants who came after him, but much of his
work and his methods are as applicable today as they were in his day.
Consider his thoughts on
Some say, “Be very
brief. People will read but 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.
So in advertising. The
only readers we get are people whom our subject interests. No one reads ads
for amusement, long or short. Consider them as prospects, standing before
you, seeking for information. Give them enough to get action.
The motto ... is, "The
more you tell the more you sell." and it has never failed to prove out so in
any test we know.
He spends an entire
chapter, called “Tell Your Full Story,” explaining—with numerous
examples—the critical importance of presenting a complete sales argument in
When you once get a
person’s attention, then is the time to accomplish all you ever hope with
him. Bring all your good arguments to bear. Cover every phase of your
subject. One fact appeals to some, one to another. Omit any one and a
certain percentage will lose the fact which might convince. ... So present
to the reader, when once you get him, every important claim you have.
The best advertisers do
that. They learn their appealing claims by tests—by comparing results from
various headlines. Gradually they accumulate a list of claims important
enough to use. All those claims appear in every ad thereafter.
This again brings up the
question of brevity. The most common expression you hear about advertising
is that people will not read much. Yet a vast amount of the best paying
advertising shows that people do read much.
Hopkins gives the simple
example of trying to convince someone, face-to-face, to change their
favourite brand of breakfast food, toothpaste, or soap and adopt a new one.
A man who once does that
at a woman’s door won’t argue for brief advertisements. He will never again
say, "A sentence will do," or a name or claim or boast.
Nor will the man who
traces his results. Note that brief ads are never keyed. Know that every
traced ad tells the complete story though it takes columns to tell.
Maxwell Sackheim (1890-1982)
Max Sackheim was a
pioneer in the direct marketing field. In addition to being a famous
copywriter (his ad headlined “Do You Make These Mistakes in English?” is one
of the most famous and successful ever written and ran profitably for over
40 years), he invented the Book-of-the-Month Club and the negative option
approach which have both been adopted by countless companies since then.
Here’s his point of
I have never been able
to understand why so many advertisers are afraid to use long copy when
there’s so much evidence to prove its value; so much in fact that the only
reason for using short copy is when there isn’t much to say.
One good test of copy is
whether or not it can be cut. If it can be cut, cut it. But when cutting is
hard work, you are getting down to bedrock. Tell your story fully and
completely. If you can tell it in ten words, fine. But if you need a
thousand words, nothing less is fair to the space you pay for.
Victor O. Schwab
Victor Schwab is the
author of one of the classic works on advertising, How to Write a Good
Advertisement, which was first published in 1962 after he had spent 44 years
as an advertising copywriter. An entire chapter of the book is devoted to
“How Long Should the Copy Be?” and it contains one of the most complete and
well argued explanations of copy length found anywhere.
Here are a few of his
Advertisers who are able
to check their advertising and sales results carefully have discovered an
astonishing relationship between effectiveness and number of words used.
They have found that—unless copy is exceptionally fine or exceptionally
bad—these ratios of resultfullness to copy length are fairly constant.
The LONGER your copy can
hold the interest of the greatest number of readers, the likelier you are to
induce MORE of them to act.
Because the sludge of
human inertia is so stagnant that too small an amount of copy cannot make
that sludge flow into action—unless (and usually even though) the quality of
the copy, or the inherent appeal of the product, is tremendously far above
average. And it’s a rare copy idea that can be presented with great brevity
and still get immediate action.
To sum up: the longer
your copy can hold people, the more of them you will sell; and the more
interesting your copy is, the longer you will hold them. If you can keep
your reader interested, you’ll have a better chance of propelling him to
action. If you cannot do that, then too small an amount of copy won’t push
him far enough along that road anyway.
Later on, Schwab
discusses the reasons why people will read long copy:
What subject interests
your reader 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; if you keep making your product win advantages for him.
presentation of strong consumer-benefit sales angles justifies and rewards
the use of longer copy.
A salesman does not say,
“How do you do?” speak a few words about his product, then ask you to sign
the order. No; he uses enough words to get your emotions and reasoning power
flowing toward a sale.
Yet many advertisements
virtually say little more than “Hello—Our product is wonderful—Good-by.”
Likewise, it is obvious
(but often overlooked) that no reader can be influenced by good sales angles
which don’t appear in the advertisement at all.
In other words, if these
sales angles aren’t in the copy, then ... readers can’t be influenced by
them. But if they are there, they at least have the chance of influencing
all your readers. And you cannot shorten copy too much, merely for the
greater attraction of some people, without running the risk of leaving too
little of it to do a good job of selling the others.
Attempting to compromise
with this fact, many advertisers try, in effect, to make a deal with the
reader. They make dull advertisements short. Yet mere brevity does not make
an otherwise dull advertisements interesting—any more than mere length makes
an otherwise interesting advertisement dull. Real interest will induce a
reader to read longer copy, word by word, whereas the lack of it will not
induce him to read even shorter copy.
Schwab hits the nail
right on the head when he quotes a remark attributed to Howard G. Sawyer:
“Long copy doesn’t scare away readers the way it scares away advertisers.”
Now if only advertisers began to realize that…I wouldn’t have a reason to
write this article!
Bob Stone, founder of
Stone & Adler, one of the leading Direct Marketing advertising agencies in
the world, is the author of Successful Direct Marketing Methods, the bible
of the direct marketing field. In the fourth edition of the book, published
in 1988, he says:
“Do people read long
copy?” The answer is yes! People will read something for as long as it
interests them. An uninteresting one-page letter can be too long. A
skillfully woven four-pager can hold the reader until the end. Thus, a
letter should be long enough to cover the subject adequately and short
enough to retain interest. Don’t be afraid of long copy. If you have
something to say and can say it well, it will probably do better than short
copy. After all, the longer you hold a prospect’s interest, the more sales
points you can get across and the more likely you are to win an order.
Walter H. Weintz (1916-
Walter Weintz is another
direct marketing legend, and was one of the pioneers in magazine and book
subscription direct mail when he worked at Reader’s Digest. In his 1987 book
The Solid Gold Mail Box, he shares his thoughts on long copy direct
...a question that
always comes up, when a mail-order practitioner attempts to explain his [use
of long copy], is “wouldn’t a postcard be more effective?”
And usually the
observation is added, “personally, I never read all that junk I get in third
class mailings. Really now, why do you have to write four-page letters?
Wouldn’t a one-page letter do just as well, or even better?”
The answer is, a 4-page
letter will generally pull twice as many orders as a one-page letter,
provided that the copywriter has something to say, and says it with some
skill. This isn’t just an opinion: it has been proved over and over, by
tests—where a skeptical client has prepared a one-page letter, in finest
prose, and tested it against a long-winded 4-pager.
In fact, Meredith
Publishing Company (publishers of Better Homes and Gardens and Modern Living
magazines, as well as numerous books and clubs) generally prefers a six-page
letter-because their tests have proved that a good 6-pager pulls even better
than a 4-pager!
Now, in case you’re
thinking that only old-timers and long-dead marketing pioneers hold these
points of view, let’s visit with a few of today’s generation of marketing
gurus and experts.
Robert W. Bly
Bob Bly is a top-notch
copywriter and prolific author. In his 1985 book The Copywriter’s Handbook,
which received a glowing recommendation from David Ogilvy himself, he has
this to say on the subject of long copy:
The length of the
copy—and the number of sales points to include—is something you, the
copywriter, must decide for each project. However, I offer this piece of
advice: if you’re unsure of how long to make the copy, you’re better off
including too much information than not enough information.
There are many studies
that confirm that, all else being equal, long-copy ads sell more effectively
than short ones. For example, a recent survey of 72 retailers measured the
“success ratio” of their ads against the number of merchandise facts each ad
[Here he has a table
showing a steady increase in success ratio as the number of merchandise
As you can see, the more
facts included, the more successful the ad. The study also revealed that
whenever a store omitted any essential information from an advertisement,
sales response was instantly reduced.
Don’t be afraid of long
copy. Include as many facts as it takes to make the sale.
Gary C. Halbert
Gary Halbert is one of
today’s highest paid marketing gurus and has made millions with his own
direct marketing companies. He is the author of the 1990 book How To Make
Maximum Money In Minimum Time!
One of his secrets to
profitable newspaper advertising is to:
MAKE YOUR AD LOOK LIKE A
NEWS STORY. Don’t make it look like an ad. Don’t use line art. Don’t use
arrows, cute graphics, reverse type (except maybe to highlight a phone
number), weird typestyles...OR ANYTHING ELSE THAT MIGHT WIN AN AWARD FOR
Come closer. Listen:
here is how to “think” about your newspaper ads. Think about what could be
the best possible piece of luck you could have. Think about a reporter who
heard a rumor about your product or service and decided to check it out. And
then, he fell in love with it. In fact, he loved it so much, he went back to
his typewriter and wrote a full-page rave article about what you are
Wouldn’t that be nice?
Sure would. However, it is also unlikely that such a thing will happen.
So...YOU BE THAT REPORTER!
write the rave “article.” Just like a reporter would. And, at the end of the
article, you perform a “public service” for your readers by telling them
where and how to order. But, after all this, don’t screw up by having your
“article” typeset to look like an ad.
No. No. Noooo. It should
be typeset to look like the “article” it is. You know, ad agencies just love
to quote studies that prove how much people love to read advertising.
Editorial material (or
material that appears to be editorial) gets 500% more readership than
material that is obviously advertising.
Craig Huey is a
California-based direct response advertising expert. His thoughts about long
copy are quoted in the 1998 book 2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing
Long copy works. The
more you tell, the more you sell. In fact, the reason ads don’t do as well
as direct mail is you don’t have the space to tell your story as strongly.
In just one study, McGraw-Hill reviewed 3,597 ads in 26 business magazines.
It found that ads with 300 or more words were more effective than shorter
ads in creating awareness of the product, prompting action, and reinforcing
a buying decision.
A few years back,
Merrill Lynch ran a very long ad in the New York Times. Its 6,450 words
received a lot of criticism for being “ugly,” for having “too much copy and
not enough graphics.” The headline was long, too: “What Everybody Ought to
Know About This Stock and Bond Business.”
Despite all the negative
reviews, it received 10,000 responses without even a coupon.
Jay Abraham is one of
today’s most respected—and highly paid—marketing consultants and is the
author of Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got, a book published
in 2000. Talking about sales letters he says:
Should your letter or
E-mail be long or short? Make it long enough to tell a complete,
informative, and interesting story. People think others won’t read long,
multipage letters. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You’ll read any
number of pages if a letter captures your interest. Make your sales letter
long enough to tell a complete story and to thoroughly address all the
Don’t shortcut to save
space. Edit ruthlessly for waste or boring content (this is particularly
true with E-mail), but never jettison fascinating facts, forceful reasons,
or specific information that adds to your compelling story.
If you had a salesperson
calling on a client, would you tell that person to stop the presentation
after thirty seconds to save time? Of course not. You want that salesperson
to take as much time as necessary to make a compelling case. That also
applies to sales letters.
My most successful sales
letters have been eight, ten, twelve, even sixteen pages long. But every
paragraph was informative, and every section advanced the case. If you have
a hobby or a profession, how much will you read on that subject? A page? A
chapter? A book? The answer is: a lot. Provided it is interesting. If your
sales letters are interesting, people will gladly read them.
Jay Conrad Levinson
Jay Conrad Levinson is
the author of the number one best selling marketing series of all time, the
Guerrilla Marketing books. In Guerrilla Marketing Attack (1989) he says:
Remember that long copy
works better than short copy. Of all the things people dislike about
marketing, “lack of information” comes in second. [“Feeling deceived” is
Advertising, a 1994 sequel, he adds:
Print ads that look like
a newspaper story and have a newsy headline are another sage use of the
print media. People read newspapers to get the news, and if you’ve got some,
tell it. They read magazines so they can become involved with the stories.
Let them become involved with your ad.
Many of the most
successful print ads are long-copy ads with headlines that begin with the
words “How to.” ...prospects hang on to every word. Don’t be deluded into
thinking people won’t read long copy. They will if it interests them. And
they will if it solves one of their problems. The sheer quantity of your
copy will impress many prospects who won’t even read it, but will figure
that if you have that much to say about your offering, it must be
In another 1994 addition
to the series, The Guerrilla Marketing Handbook, co-authored with Seth Godin,
he sums up the issue very nicely:
Don’t be afraid to use
lengthy copy. It’s been statistically proven time and time again that ads
with more copy draw better than those with less. You want to give the reader
as much of the story about your product or service as possible. Tell a story
that will compel them to buy.
So what do you think
Every one of the authors
I have quoted is a giant in the field of advertising. Between them, they
have written advertising that has sold hundreds of billions of dollars worth
of products spanning the entire twentieth century. Every one of them built
their career on producing advertisements that worked phenomenally well for
And they all agree about
the effectiveness of long copy ads. If you were to review the work they
produced during their advertising careers you would see that they practiced
what they preached.
Do you think they could
all be wrong? Not too damn likely is it?
Do you think you know
more about the subject than they do? Do you really want to ignore their
experience and research?
And I’ve only touched
the tip of the iceberg, of course. I’ve provided you with a few brief quotes
from some of the greatest men in advertising history. But every marketing
person who has tested and tracked the results of their advertisements could
vouch for the same thing. And I could share with you hundreds of additional
quotes from marketing books, research papers, and articles that would
reiterate the same conclusions over and over again.
So the next time some
uneducated advertising sales person, graphic designer, or self-proclaimed
(and self-deluded) marketing expert tells you that “No one will read all
that copy,” you know what to do: hand them a copy of this article and
suggest that they should really do a little research before making such
So let’s sum up what
we’ve learned from the advertising greats about long copy ads:
· People will read
long copy as long as it interests them. The people that won’t read long copy
are the ones who aren’t interested in your product anyway. No advertisement
will change their mind, regardless of the number of words it contains. Real
prospects want to know as much as they can in order to make a sound
· People are primarily
interested in themselves, their families, or their businesses. They are not
interested in your company, product, or service in any other way except for
the benefits it will bring to them. As long as the copy continues to focus
on their self-interest, it will keep their attention.
· People read
newspapers and magazines for the stories and articles they contain, not for
the ads. In fact, most people scan the headlines for articles of interest to
them while purposely avoiding anything that looks like advertising. As a
result, advertising that contains a headline which attracts their interest
and looks like the editorial content around it is much more likely to be
read than advertising which looks like advertising.
· The purpose of
advertising is to motivate and bring about the desired action in the reader,
such as an order, phone call, or visit to your place of business. For most
products and services, a picture and a few words are highly unlikely to
attain the desired response. Your ad needs to do what a salesman would do
when face to face with a prospect and provide a complete presentation of the
product or service benefits.
· Because of this,
every advertisement should tell the full and complete story. It should
contain all the strongest and most persuasive reasons for a prospect to do
business with you. And for those who are either too lazy or in too much of a
hurry to read all the fine print, you should include subheads throughout
which summarize the main points of the ad for these quick scanners.
With over a century of
practical experience, thorough testing and research, and the collective
recommendation of some of the great names in advertising history behind it,
you can take this approach to the bank. Long copy advertising works.
1. “I’ve seen research
that says otherwise”
Yes, it is true that
supporters of short copy advertising can produce research which seems to
support their point of view. But if you begin to dig into this “research” a
little deeper, you’ll find it doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny.
First, you’ll find that
much of the research is academic in nature. This means it was done in a
laboratory, not the real world. In most cases, student volunteers—who are
not real prospects for the product or service in question—are shown a series
of ads and asked which ones they “liked” best. Not surprisingly, they choose
attractive or amusing ads. You would never get the same results in the real
world where actual prospects and actual sales are being counted.
The second type of
research which seems to contradict the recommendations I’m making is a
favourite of the big general advertising agencies. They measure for what is
known as an “advertising recall” score and they conclude that the more
people remember the advertising, the better it is. Once again, volunteers
who are not true prospects for the products or services involved are shown a
random series of advertisements. Then, at varying time intervals, they are
asked which ones they remember. Now let me ask you which would you remember:
a pink elephant with green polka dots being ridden by a naked 300-pound
woman—or an ad with a simple product picture and lots of strong selling
You guessed it! The
naked woman on the elephant achieves a significantly higher recall score and
is deemed to be the better advertisement. Now, unless you’re selling pink
and green elephants—or 300-pound naked women—your ad may be remembered, but
it’s not likely to sell much.
If you think my example
is too outrageous to be realistic, try a little experiment: see how many
television commercials you remember. Now see if you remember what those
commercials were in fact selling. And finally, ask yourself if you’ve
actually purchased any of those products or services. Unless you are a
particularly astute student of television commercials, chances are you
couldn’t remember what most of them were selling. If you actually buy any of
the products, my guess is that you were already doing so before the
commercials aired. And remember, we’re talking about television commercials
here that you have probably seen many, many times. “Memorable” print
advertisements are even less likely to work.
2. “If this is true, why
doesn’t everyone know about it—and do it?”
That’s a valid question
and there isn’t one simple answer. But here are a few possible reasons.
First, most of the
people involved in creating advertising are amateurs who have never
seriously studied the subject. They are salespeople who sell advertising
space. They are graphic designers who provide the “free layout services” for
newspapers, magazines, and yellow pages directories. They are free-lance
artists, desktop publishers, print shops, and other business service
providers who add “advertising layout” to their list of services—but don’t
bother to study the subject beyond browsing ads themselves.
These people speak
authoritatively on the subject of advertising. They assume that they know a
great deal about it because they work with advertising every day. They pick
up tidbits of advertising wisdom from colleagues, managers, the advertisers
themselves, and other assorted purveyors of “old wives’ tales.” It may be
fascinating and amusing—but it’s nowhere close to the truth.
There is a second group
of people who bring confusion to the issue in a different way. They are the
advertising and marketing people who studied the subject in the academic
world. They present impressive credentials like business administration
degrees, marketing degrees, and MBAs. Many of them have significant work
experience as marketing managers or consultants. Surely, they must know what
they’re talking about.
don’t—not on this subject anyway. Business schools, you see, teach marketing
from the point of view of the giant corporation:
IBM...the places where marketing budgets are measured in the hundreds of
millions. These are the companies that can afford to “build their brand
recognition,” use “reminder” ads, and count on frequent repetition to boost
their market shares by fractions of a percent. Unless you’re working with
the same kind of a budget, you can’t.
The only place you’ll go
by listening to the advice of one of these “academic marketers” is
bankruptcy court. Because they haven’t studied scientific, tested
advertising methods where actual sales are the only measure of
effectiveness, and they haven’t practiced their craft in the real world
where each advertisement needs to produce profitable results, they wrongly
assume that their Fortune 500 marketing methods apply to all businesses.
Finally, there is a
“blind leading the blind” element at work. When people go into business,
they assume that bigger competitors must know what they’re doing. They
figure that the advertising they see everywhere they look, especially the
kind placed by big, successful companies, must be the right way—and proceed
to imitate it. And, of course, they are reinforced in their decisions by the
two misguided groups mentioned above.
Lost in this great sea
of marketing idiocy are the lonely voices of the marketers who have done
their homework, who have practiced and experimented in the real world. Make
sure you don’t ignore them just because they are in the minority.
3. “The newspaper,
magazine, and yellow pages publishers don’t want me to do long copy ads”
Publishers often seem to
go to great lengths to talk you out of running long copy advertising. Why is
The issues we’ve already
covered above explain most of the problem, but there are a few other points
First, it is obviously
far cheaper, easier, and quicker to produce low-copy or poster style
advertising. A stock photo or piece of clip art, the company name and logo,
a few “clever” words of copy or a slogan, and you’re done! Next…! Anyone
with a basic grasp of graphic design or page layout software and a minimal
amount of good taste can perform the task in just a few minutes. (Sadly,
some publishers don’t even include the minimal amount of good taste in their
Since publishers usually
offer these design services free of charge to advertisers, they are not
about to hire highly skilled copywriters and marketers. The last thing they
want you to do is to start a trend and have their other advertisers begin
asking them to create high copy ads.
Newspaper and magazine
publishers—and by extension their sales representatives—are also huge fans
of reminder advertising. “Keep your name in front of the customer,” they
tell you, recommending that you place ads in every issue of their
publication so that their readers can’t possibly forget you. They are
right—up to a point, of course—because readers won’t forget something they
never notice in the first place. The motivation for this seemingly helpful
suggestion is quite transparent: A “reminder” advertiser never needs to be
sold advertising space again, an ideal scenario for the sales rep and
Finally, magazines and
newspapers are concerned that editorial style ads will compete with the
actual editorial material in their publication and confuse their readers.
This is not an unreasonable concern—and is in fact exactly what you hope to
accomplish as an advertiser—but chances are that there will never be more
than a handful of advertisers using this technique thanks to the
overwhelming majority of the short-copy advocates. And besides, it’s really
not your problem.
4. “I showed people some
long copy ads, and they told me they don’t like them and don’t read them”
You’ve fallen into the
trap of the researchers we discussed previously. My guess is that you asked
people who were not real prospects for the product or service featured in
the ad. It’s also possible that the ad had a poor headline, weak,
uninteresting copy, or boastful, company-centered information that didn’t
connect with the reader’s self-interest. Just because an ad has long copy
does not necessarily make it a good one.
If you want a truer test
of what people think about long copy ads, begin by finding out what it is
they are really interested in or passionate about, like a favourite cause,
beloved hobby, or grave concern. Now ask them if they would read a long copy
ad on that subject.
I think you already know
There are hundreds of
factors which determine whether an ad is successful or unsuccessful. One of
the factors that seems to cause a great deal of confusion, scepticism, and
debate is the use of long copy in advertisements.
Now that you've heard
the opinion of some of the greatest names in advertising history on the
subject, I hope that you will never again be afraid that long copy will not
The evidence is in. The
results from decades of testing and experimentation are conclusive. The
logic is clear and simple.
Long copy ads work.
and Reality Marketing Associates