Long Copy is King – Short Copy Kills Sales 

 January 19, 2012

By  Gavriel Shaw

Imagine trying to sell a product through pictures alone.

Snazzy billboard adverts. Flashy TV adverts. Creative attention grabbing magazine adverts.

Big on ‘big ideas’.  Short on copy.

Do they sell?

Who cares?! They win awards for the creative agencies.

But a certain type of copywriter does care.  They care about your bottom line as a client. They care about the prospect, because they will put together a good case for why the prospect should buy. They will run split tests. They will even suggest weaknesses in the product offer so they can be improved.

What kind of copywriter sweats bullets and bleeds onto a blank canvas, cares little about awards, and avoid the word ‘creative’?

A Direct Response Copywriter.

The mirror opposite of a creative short copy copywriter.

The DR Copywriter wants a 100% market to message match.  To make the sale.

A short copy creative copywriter wants to entertain his audience, and win his agency an award.

I think the opposing philosophies can be made clear with this one simple test.

Creative copywriting wants big pictures, and very few words.

Direct Response Copywriting uses long copy, and only images where they can directly support the text.

So which is more important? Pictures or words?  Are pictures worth a thousand words?

There are 2 ways to find out.

Test 1: The Logical Test

Imagine trying to sell a product through pictures alone.  If there was absolutely no text whatsoever, just a big bright entertaining picture, would anything get sold?

Only the most simple of products. And probably only the products that have already had untold millions spent on building ‘brand awareness’. Coca Cola could do ads without words.  Would they help sell more coke? Perhaps. But who cares, the ads look cool!

Well, smaller companies, with more complex products, could they rely on ads without words? Just the pictures? Absolutely not.

So for most products (if not all), the words are by far more important.

But it’s test 2 that really takes home the money…

Speak to DR Copywriters, and they’ll talk about split testing and conversions.

  • They’ll talk about features, benefits, and advantages.  The gains made by the prospect.
  • They’ll also talk about possibly buying objections, providing guarantees, removing the risk, adding bonuses (premiums).
  • They’ll ask to see previously run ads.
  • They’ll ask about USPs of the product or company, and they’ll actually probe it to clarify and expand on them.
  • They’ll ask about the history of the product. It’s origins. How it came to be. The full story behind it.
  • They’ll ask about the media in which the adverts need to run in.
  • They’ll ask about front-end products and back-end products.
  • And much, much more…

Bottom line, they’ll ask a great deal of questions.

The creative copywriter will be different. He’ll want a creative brief, not too long though mind you, life’s too short for reading lots of text. He’ll want to know the USP, the main benefits, and then he’ll go to work scratching his head with his friendly Art Director, watching cartoons, scribbling slogans on a pad, and trying to be… well, ‘creative’.

Rosser Reeves, one of the greats of Direct Response Copywriting said:

“Creativity is one of the most dangerous words in advertising”

I obviously couldn’t agree more.

Short copy loses sales. Long copy is king.

Gavriel Shaw

Gavriel has product and marketing expertise from a variety of roles, including CMO, Head of Growth, Head of Marketing, eCommerce Director, Web Marketing Director, Product Marketing Manager, and Senior Copywriter in various sectors, both B2C and B2B.

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