People often complain that I write in short punchy sentences.
They want to know why I can’t write in paragraphs.
The reason is I write like I talk.
So the next question is, why do I talk in short punchy sentences?
Not everyone likes it.
Some people get offended, they think it sounds aggressive.
Well that’s not the intention.
The intention for me is the same as in advertising.
To get heard.
People still discuss the question ‘is long copy dead?’
Personally I think that’s a silly question.
Like everything else, the answer is sometimes.
Long copy is one of the tools that’s available to us.
Like social media, like crowd-sourcing, like DM, like TV, like humour, like shock, like emotion, like music, like animation, like celebrities, like stock-footage.
You use what you need to do the job.
Different job, different tools.
But some people don’t see it that way.
They think you should have one tool and use that for every job.
For me, my start point isn’t ads.
My start point is other people’s attention.
I want space in their attention.
If want their attention, I need to get it in the most efficient way.
The principle I learned in New York is that roughly 5% of people who read your headline read your copy.
This tells us the headline is all important, for two reasons.
Either it has to be a great headline to get people to read the copy, it’s like a gatekeeper drawing people in.
Or it has to contain all the information necessary so that even if they don’t read the copy, the ad still works.
So if that’s how ads work, presumably that’s how people work.
Which is why I talk to people in short sentences.
Either you get the whole story quickly, or I make the sentence good enough that you want to know more.
Then we can go into details and do the verbal equivalent of body copy.
But either way I haven’t taken up your time, no wasted words.
That means it often sounds terse and clipped, which to some people comes across as aggressive.
And, as I say, it isn’t meant that way.
It’s just that I was trained in New York and it’s considered rude to waste people’s time.
Say what you have to say, then let them decide if they want more.
Rather than the English way.
Which is give everyone the long body copy up front because we think it sounds more polite.
For me, a good principle is the ad should work whether or not you read the copy.
The copy may even be considered as a visual.
It looks like you have a lot to say about your product, and that’s probably a good thing.
Even if the viewer hasn’t got time to read it.
So my personal default setting is “the best copy is the least copy”.
Of course ‘the least copy’ means the least copy you can use to do the job properly.
Sometimes “the least copy” might be quite long.
A few years back I opened up a paper and there was an ad about a pollution disaster in India, written by Indra Sinha.
It was an entire broadsheet page of nothing but copy.
It sucked me in and made me read every word.
The copy was both shocking and terrible, in the truest sense of those words.
I felt I had to do something.
So I took out my chequebook and wrote a cheque for £1,000 and posted it off straight away.
Not many ads can make someone do that.
But then every ad is a different brief.
And so every ad needs different tools.