Friday, August 12, 2011

As a writer, I'm a man of few words.

       I keep getting asked the same question over and over again: do I like long copy in ads, or short copy?

       So this time I answered in a different way. I like neither long copy or short copy. I like the amount of copy it takes to meet the objective. For a candy bar, it's usually short or none at all. Who wants to read about a candy bar? For a car, there might be more things a customer wants to know before she decides to go to a dealer.

       Actually, from my point of view as a writer, I'm not crazy about writing a lot of copy. Sometimes you have to, to make the sale.

       When I worked at Foote, Cone, and Belding in Chicago, I was creative director on a large bank client. Every Thursday at 11, I met with the bank's chairman, and he would tell me what was on his mind. Then I had to go back to the office and do a long-copy, full page ad for the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune. I got it down to a system. When I got back, I immediately went to my art-director partner Lester's office. We'd work out a headline and a dramatic visual. Then I'd call in Carl, a writer I hired from New York who knew banking lingo and who'd write the long text. Everyone was happy, especially the chairman of the bank.

      I have written long-text ads when I've had to, and one three-page ad I created actually sold a $4-million boat. A man bought a copy of Yachting magazine at the Los Angeles airport, read the ad on the plane, and called in his order to  my client Hatteras Yachts in North Carolina when he landed in New York. The client nearly fainted and called me immediately.

       David Ogilvy used to say that long-copy ads don't have to be read in order to work. They serve as a graphic to communicate that you've got a lot of good stuff to say about your product.

       I've written no-copy ads, too. But they had a big idea communicated by the visual, which I contributed to. In a sense, they're all-copy ads, because the picture spoke volumes.

       As I said earlier, copy should be long enough to get the idea across.

       And then stop.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely a well reasoned response to the question. People are too quick to jump into an assignment and start designing, when they really need to do their research on the context and process of design. Writing can come pretty easily, but I agree that evaluating the situation and desired outcomes is essential. Sometimes things need to be concise, other times creating that story will create interest that wasn't there before.

    I don't feign to be an expert, but I also imagine that the product plays a part in the development of the advertisement or pitch. A well-established brand compared to something newer and less reputable would warrant more/less explanation.

    -DJ (Nate's friend)