Long copy sheds its cocoon to engage an attention deficit audience
Do long copy ads still find favour with clients and agencies? No matter how well-written, do long copy ads manage to engage today’s attention deficit audience? Adgully’s premier TwitterChat endeavour, the first of 2012, dwelled on the topic – ‘Longer narratives are back, why not long copy?’ Joining in the discussions on Friday, January 8, 2021, were:
Aalap Desai, National Creative Director, Happy mcgarrybowen
KV Sridhar, Global Chief Creative Officer, Nhilent & Hypercollective
Naresh Gupta, Chief Strategy Officer, Bang in the Middle
Sumanto Chattopadhyay, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, 82.5 Communications
It is a long held belief that long copy advertising is dead, deployed sporadically by agencies to cut through the clutter or to differentiate. 82.5 Communications’ Sumanto Chattopadhyay echoed the widespread sentiment in the ad fraternity on long copy, “Long copy is seen as an indulgence; a tool for writing award-winning (read ‘scam’) ads. People have apparently stopped reading. But I think there are those who read. Reading has actually surged in 2020. How you read has changed, of course, from paperbacks to e-readers.”
Happy mcgarrybowen’s Aalap Desai observed, “Most advertisers think long copy is dead. I feel it has evolved. Instead of a print ad, it’s quite often in the form of social posts. Writers express themselves differently on digital. The lingo is different and often peppered with hashtags and acronyms. It has taken a different form and maybe that’s why we’ve stopped knighting it as long copy anymore.”
According to Desai, “Creative posts should not be categorised as above the line or digital anymore. They should have a profile that has both a print ad and a social post in it so that they get to craft copy when needed and learn to keep quality control when they need to write posts.”
Bang in the Middle’s Naresh Gupta added here, “Digital tends to call long copy ‘blogs’ and completely dismisses it. That’s because platforms count words. Both are detrimental to logical crafting of copy. The swipe function on Instagram is a great way to use long copy even on visual platforms like Instagram. Creators do use the power of long copy interestingly.”
“Follow the legendary Freddy Birdy or influencers like Karuna Ezara on Instagram, and you will realise that long copy very much alive,” retorted Desai.
So, why are clients hesitant to leverage the power of long copy? Chattopadhyay believed, “The issue is, people think that writing is irrelevant – that your job is done once you crack the idea. We are going back to the days of ancient Egypt. They communicated through hieroglyphs on their pyramid walls. We communicate with emojis on Facebook walls. But still, there’s room for reading and writing.”
Here, Naresh Gupta asked, “How many writers in agencies have the ability to craft long copy ads?”
Veteran ad man and author, KV Sridhar concurred, “How many writers can write a 300-word copy? The root cause is the language barrier. Have you ever seen a Marathi language copy ad? Long copy is dead with British English. Audience’s preference – 1) Video, 2) Cinema graphs, 3) Still picture, 4) Written word. As this generation is consuming more content, their attention span is getting shorter and shorter, and the context of consumption has also changed.”
“India is a ‘post-literate’ society. There are millions who cannot read or write properly, but are connecting through voice and video. But there are still those other millions who can and love to read. Let’s not forget them in our effort to appeal to the Next Billion Users!” opined Chattopadhyay.
Adding further, Desai said, “Long copy needs to evolve in regional languages. If we can enjoy ‘Narcos’ and rave about it inspite of it being in a foreign language, then there is no reason why we can’t read a beautiful piece of copy in Marathi and love it.”
It is not just long copy, longer narratives are shunned by advertisers. A guest Tweet put across succinctly the trouble with the mindset of advertising professionals and marketers.
“Indian Advertising’s creative cluster has moved away from being depth oriented to width disorder! Consumers mostly don’t even recall the brand after having been subjected to the best frequencies!” tweeted @asraghunath.
“Because of the increase in writing for social and the speed at which it needs to be delivered, fewer writers are actually concentrating on craft. Speed is more important right now, so they end up taking shortcuts. It’s a challenge that the entire industry is facing right now,” explained Desai.
Chattopadhyay observed, “This is what happens when you have to write for an ‘always on’ brand – which every brand wants to be today!”
Sridhar had a bleaker view when he said, “Visual or writing the craft itself is dying. There is a cacophony out there in the media. Save the crafts!”
Gupta argued that “Speed is an exception, not a rule, and clients do know this.” He also believed that the broader digital community are leveraging long copy in interesting ways. He said, “Every celebrity is posting long descriptors on their Instagram feed, which is being lapped up by their followers. Till the written word is compelling and interesting, people read it. We, in advertising, need to be alive to it. Twitter threads are very popular and are used by many to write compelling stores. Once such is @ramkid, who is really skilled at this.”