My wife wants a rabbit. She would call it Ethel, it would live inside our house and she would buy it tiny woolly hats.
I, on the other hand, would seize the first opportunity to fling Ethel at a low flying owl and tell my bereft wife that the little rascal had ‘ran away’.
I am not telling you this to incur the wrath of rabbit lovers across the nation (ok, maybe a little bit). I am telling it to illustrate the fact that I have no love for pets.
Instead, I have a love for words, and it is this love that has landed me in the rather splendid world of copywriting. And as a copywriter, word enthusiast, and rabbit flinger I am a dedicated champion for the medium of long copy ads.
All too often, the world of marketing tends to eschew long copy in favour of the concise and (God help us) ‘punchy’ headline. Many times I have heard people within the industry criticise an advert for being ‘too wordy’.
This is so wrong it makes me want to fling such people at an owl, although this would take a fairly enormous owl and far more upper body strength than I am ever likely to have.
‘Wordy’ should not be a term of denigration. Some of the most poignant, witty and memorable ads I have ever encountered have been of the long copy variety.
Admittedly a rambling, uninspiring piece of long copy is unlikely to be read from start to finish, and is certainly not going to linger in the reader’s mind. But a clever, well constructed and evocative piece of long copy advertising can captivate an audience in a way that, I believe, pictures and imagery simply cannot.
I am perfectly happy to acknowledge that a clever and beautiful photograph or image, without a single letter copy on it, can have a similarly dramatic effect. But I’m a copy monkey and I’m arguing for long copy – let those design fiends state their own case for pretty pictures, shapes and colours. If they can spell. Which they can’t. Stupid designers.
What concerns me as a copywriter is that the marketing world we live in has never been so fast and fluid. From a marketing perspective, attention is incredibly difficult to acquire.
People live their lives at speed and persuading them to slow down is tricky enough, never mind encouraging them to absorb, consider and act upon a marketing message.
In a way this is a threat to the long copy medium. Campaign decision makers are increasingly losing the courage to run with a message that cannot be fully digested in more than three to five seconds.
However, those that are bold enough to still believe in the effectiveness of an engaging piece of long copy can at least demand that what they produce is something genuinely remarkable.
Long copy ads may decline in quantity over the coming years, but those that do appear will need to be astounding enough to stop the modern audience in their busy, busy tracks. The art of long copy may well be entering its finest hour.
And, in case of any of you were worried let me assure you that I would never hurl my wife’s beloved pet at an owl. I actually took it to the zoo and threw it at a bear. Cheerio Ethel.
Andrew Boulton, currently under investigation by the RSPCA, is a copywriter at the Together Agency
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