Advertising copy: The long and short of it

By:  Denise Holland, Copywriter

It’s been debated, discussed and analyzed – which attracts readers and sells products and services better, long or short copy?

Many of the legends in advertising, David Ogilvy, John Caples and Claude Hopkins, have written books and focused seminars on this very subject. Advocates for long copy believe, strongly, that “the more you tell – the more you sell.” On the other side, true lovers of short copy will tell you that today’s consumers have short attention spans and that “to-the-point” copy is what it takes to make a sale. Who’s right? Well, after long deliberation, research and investigation, the answer is … they both are!

The truth is, no one copywriting approach will work for every product or service. You must look at the target audience to determine the right way to write for them – research is key.

For example, if your audience is strictly real estate agents, research will show you that this group is detail oriented, very busy and has a “bottom line” way of thinking. For this group, long copy won’t do the job.

In fact, it probably won’t even get read. These people want copy that is short and sweet – “tell me what it is, how it will benefit me and where to get it – but do it fast!”

The long copy audience includes any person making an investment – not necessarily in the stock market or in a financial deal – but of their time and money. Whenever people decide to invest in a product or service, they get nervous. They need to be reassured. They need “selling.” Here, long copy is king because it provides a complete “sales pitch” for your product or service. But here’s the trick with long copy – it has to be interesting and straightforward. “Fluff” (a word most copywriters hate) won’t do the job. You need facts, figures and a compelling story.

So, now that I’ve written long copy about a short subject, I’ll cut to the chase. Advertising legends, even legends-in-training, will pretty much agree – advertising copy, long or short, will only work when you can grab your audience’s attention and get them interested in what you’re writing about.

Penny Ohlmann Neimann

The Ohlmann Group has a rich history that began in Dayton, Ohio in 1949, where the agency was founded as Penny and Penny by Bob Penny and his wife Jean. In 1964, Walter Ohlmann joined the firm. Ralph Neiman came on in 1969 and the firm became Penny/Ohlmann/Neiman. In 2011, P/O/N was renamed The Ohlmann Group to better reflect the agency's ongoing evolution and collaborative nature.

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