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August 2, 2006

Excerpts: The Little Blue Book of Advertising: 52 Small Ideas That Can Make A Big Difference, by Steve Lance and Jeff Woll

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 7:21 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture



Should copy be long or short? I mean, does anyone actually read long copy anymore? Steve Lance and Jeff Woll say they do and here's why. ----
Long Copy Can Sell
Nobody reads anymore. Certainly nobody reads body copy in an ad. Lies, lies, and more lies. Youre still reading this book. Why? Because you think theres something of value here for you. You see a benefit in getting the information thats contained here. (Again with the benefit, you ask? Duh.) Theres no rational reason to create billboard-type advertising in media other than billboards. Unless the creative team just doesnt want to work very hard. Or they have a stupendous idea that really works in six words or less. If youre selling an image, then use an image. Long copy isnt needed when a picture can tell a thousand words. And were not advocating the continual use of long-copy ads. Were just saying borrow a page from your Internet site and bring it over to print. People go to the Internet for information. They want to know about a product or service. Why? Because theyre not getting that information in the advertising. So why make the sale a two-step process? If its important to put the information in the ad, put it in the ad. If all you want to communicate is style, then shorter is better. Prospects do read long copy, especially about-to-buy prospects in the market for a considered purchase such as a car, a financial product, or a capital expenditure for a business. Most buyers about to shell out big bucks want to know as much as they can about the product and brand theyre buying. These prospects become mavens (Yiddish for experts) in the category. Help them if you want to sell to them. Mavens and about-to-buys are constantly on the search for benefits they would like, features they are interested in, and how your brand builds its competitive edge over the competition. The more you tell them, the more theyll know. Again, this is why the Internet has become so valuable to buyers. The Internet lets the buyers do the research they can basically no longer do in print advertising. And once these more knowledgeable consumers make up their mind, they will unquestionably repeat the benefits and features to everyone who will listen to them. They will not only become buyers but great salespeople for your brand. Never be afraid of long copy. Long copy can and likely will:
  1. separate your brand from the competition
  2. provide your brand with a perceived level of expertise
  3. generate high awareness scores in the publications in which it runs
  4. increase the intent-to-buy scores of even those not in the about-to-buy segment
  5. provide information for the people other people turn to for advice
One caveat about long copy: its getting harder and harder to find an art director who really knows how to design a long copy ad and has the patience to design it so it is at its most readable. (If you find one, hire him; hell be worth his weight in gold.) And we mean an art director, not a designer. Whats the difference? Glad you asked us that. Whats the difference between a poster and an ad? Designers do posters. Theyre glamorous, stylish, contemporary art pieces featuring a commercial product. Some of the greatest poster art of the 1920s and 1930s are priceless artworks today. An art director is a person who can use her artistic skills to direct the visual communication. Theyre both valuable skills, but well take an art director over a designer any day of the week. An art director understands the hierarchy of messaging and makes sure your eye goes to each key point in the order its supposed to go. Designing a long-copy ad takes care and exacting work. It also takes terrific teamwork between the art director and the copywriter. Some critical points to spend time on are:
  • typeface selection (Make it readable. Use a serif typeface.)
  • headline and subhead design (Be specific and say what you have to say to draw the reader into the body copy.)
  • paragraph length (Use short sentences and paragraphs.)
  • body copy headings (Use them frequently. Keep them short with lots of white space around them.)
  • column width (Maximize white space and keep the columns a size that makes the ad easy to read.)
  • white space (If at all possible dont use the bleed space on a page. The wider the border the better.)
  • readable copy (Never use reverse type in the body copy.)
And finally, when the ad has been written, designed, and approved, let it ripen for a day or two and then come back for final edits and approval. Youll be glad you did. Oh, another final pointsee if you can use the ad in your blog, your Web site, and your point-of-sale literature. Well bet you can and that it will do double duty for you and your brand. Thats a great money saver and revenue producer. Have we said enough? We could keep goingand we bet youd continue to read. ----- Reprinted from The Little Blue Book of Advertising: 52 Small Ideas That Can Make A Big Difference, by Steve Lance and Jeff Woll, by arrangement with Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright (c) Steve Lance and Jeff Woll, 2006.

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.