Nobody has time for a long copy ad

Andrew Boulton is a senior lecturer on copywriting and creative advertising at the University of Lincoln. He’s also a copywriter with over a decade of scribbling experience at top creative agencies in the Midlands and once for a man who carved dolphins out of cheese.

He was nominated for the Professional Publishers Association Award for Business Media Columnist of the Year despite having little or no grasp of the semi colon. You can follow him on Twitter @Boultini.

It’s time to face the truth. This world, filled with shimmering digital horizons and the smudgy glide of thumbs across screens, has no time for long copy.

We are busy. Too busy, preposterously busy, tooth-achingly busy.

And between gobbling down the stodge and starch of our contractual ‘busy’, we snack on busy of a more throwaway kind – only half realising that this sort of busy nibbles away at us, not the other way round.

We scroll busily, tap busily, busily beat our fingers at tiny hearts on tiny screens. How could we have time for a long copy ad? We’re. Just. Too. Busy.

At least this state of busy does not discriminate. Ours is an equal opportunities busy, portioning out disregard fairly and without distinction.

We do not have time to read a long copy advert in the way we do not have time to listen to a duck quacking and imagine what she’s trying to say, or wonder about the people who can’t bring themselves to stop reading a book even as they walk down a busy street, or listen, through silenced headphones, to the couple in front of you on the bus as they try, and fail, to argue quietly about someone’s failure to turn off the slow cooker.

In fact, we do not have the time for anything that needs us to be curious. And yet, we give time we do not have to curiosity every single day.

That is why long copy adverts still exist, no matter how many times it is pronounced otherwise. Because curiosity can never become obsolete, because human attention can always be snared with the right words.

Claiming this modern life has no use for long copy is like saying it has no need for oars or brooms or half-time orange segments or even doctors drilling a hole in your skull. There is always a use for the things that remain useful, even if that usefulness does not apply to every situation.

We’re told that this world is too distracted to have a place for long copy advertising when it is precisely that capacity for distraction that makes great long copy ads work.

No matter how tidily our emails are categorised, or how symmetrically the knots on our shiny, shiny shoes are tied, human beings are greedy for distraction – we crave it even when there is barely room in our day for an indulgent blink.

Long copy exploits that greed. It is a slender, sneaky wolf and will snatch from you a moment you could not afford to give away.

But, whether you miss a train, lose your focus, stumble out of the stride and stomp of your day, you would have done it for one reason.

Because, while you may not have the time for a long copy ad, neither do you have the ability to turn away from a great story.

Follow Andrew on Twitter

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