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Should You Write A Long-copy Ad Or Keep It Short?
By Alex A. Kecskes, Mon Jan 2nd

Should You Write a Long-Copy Ad or Keep it Short?


Alex A. Kecskes

Okay, you're ready to write the ad of a lifetime. The one thatwill pull like crazy and leave them begging for your productlike Somalians for food. So, do you whet their appetite with ashort and sweet ad? Or write a long-copy ad that's stuffed withinformation?

The 80-20 rule says 80% of the people only read the headline(and maybe a caption, if you have one). But the fact is, readerswill read a long-copy ad. One McGraw-Hill study looked at 3,597ads in 26 business magazines. What they discovered was that adswith 300 or more words were more effective that shorter ads increating product awareness, inducing action and reinforcing thedecision to buy. Another ad for Merrill Lynch crammed 6, 450words into a single New York Times page. It pulled over 10,000responses--even without a coupon!

The truth is, the reason people read ads has nothing to do withcopy length.

"Nobody reads long ads..." and other urban ad legends

People shun too many of today's ads--long or short--becauseseveral misleading myths have stubbornly remained with us.Things like "negative headlines are a downer since people wantto feel good when reading your ad." Or "show the product orthey'll never know what you're selling." Then there's the stuffyaxiom, "there's no place for humor in business advertising. " Orthe ubiquitous saw, "all your ads should look the same, blend inor be swallowed up." The list goes on and on. Presented withunabashed hubris by the high priests of advertising. The basicfact is, ads really fail for three reasons.

Your ads are all about you

You're telling customers what you want to hear, not what theywant to know. Impressive sounding features are fine to motivateyour sales force, but your customer is only interested in onething: "What's in it for me?" This offense is particularlyegregious in business-to-business advertising, which is infamousfor its addiction to phrases like "the XP90 does it all" or "nowwith Duo-Pentium Processor"--without a hint of what thesefeatures do.

Also contaminating many of today's ads are suchchest-pounding headlines as "Taking the lead," "The promise oftomorrow, today," or "A tradition of quality." They sound goodbut say nothing.

Your ads are boring

You've got to break the boredom barrier--big time. Many ad gurussay blend in, be one of the pack and survive. No wonder so manyads look alike, proudly showing big pictures of their products,or worse yet, featuring a giant photo of the company'sCEO--usually with a caption that's been scrubbed clean oforiginality or compelling information. If you want people tostop and read your ad, you have to make the ad more interestingthan the editorials in the publication you're in. Give them realnews, a fresh new way to look at what you're offering them.Stand out from the crowd. Start trends, don't follow them. Oneof the most interesting car ads I ever saw showed the car onlysparingly; instead, it featured an animation of a human heartbeating furiously to the soundtrack of an accelerating engine.Breakthrough stuff.

Your ads don't make human contact

They're not reaching readers on an emotional level. We all wantto be liked, appreciated and loved. We want to feel secure inour lives and our jobs. So be a mensch. Create ads that touchthe soul. Use an emotional appeal in your visual, headline andcopy. Don't just show a car on the road; show the guycaptivating his sweetheart with the car. If your buyers were onthe moon, would they care about your car's styling? No. They'dget an ugly, crawly vehicle that got them from crater to crater.Selling computers to business? Show the guy getting a raise orpromotion for selecting your latest model. You're selling theemotional end result, the human need-based bottom line, not abox, or vehicle with four wheels and an engine.

Alex Kecskes provides a full range of copywriting services.Visit www.akcreativeworks.com for more information and samples.

About the author:Alex Kecskes is a former ad agency Copy Chief who has createdeffective copy and concepts for a wide range of ad agencies andFortune 500 companies. As owner of ak creativeworks, Alexprovides strategic copy for brochures, mailers, multimedia,radio, newsletters, PR and web content.

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