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The Death of Long Copy?

November 7, 2019

So I have your attention now for eight seconds. I better make this time useful.


At least that's what a widely discussed article reported a few years ago. Various publications reported on the findings of a Canadian study saying that the average attention span has decreased from 12 seconds to 8 seconds in the past 15 years.


A recent study published this year concurred with the findings saying, “Our data only supports the claim that our collective attention span is narrowing.”

The video takeover

Forbes writes that internet video traffic will be over 80% of all consumer internet traffic in the next couple of years. 

Mobile first

Another important trend is the move from desktop toward mobile internet usage. In a whitepaper published by Cisco, it is written that “Globally, mobile data traffic will increase sevenfold between 2017 and 2022. Smartphone traffic will exceed PC traffic. In 2018, PCs accounted for 41 percent of total IP traffic, but by 2022 PCs will account for only 19 percent of IP traffic. Smartphones will account for 44 percent of total IP traffic by 2022, up from 18 percent in 2017.” 

Mobile phones, although they are getting larger in size, are not optimal for the reading of long copy.

Long copy’s funeral

Do these points tell us to start preparing for the funeral of long copy? If yes, I’d love to get a share of the inheritance. Long copy has created billions of dollars of revenue and increased the selling power of untold number of marketing campaigns.

Lets first discuss a few general points regarding long copy.

The Men of Marketing

Every modern student of marketing has learnt the works of David Ogilvy, John Caples and Claude Hopkins. If you haven’t, please stop reading and purchase one of their books on Amazon. Their fundamental rules of copy and testing are some of the foundations for how advertising is served today.

One fundamental that is stressed by all of them is the importance of good long copy.

Claude Hopkins writes in Scientific Advertising (Chapter 4), “The more you tell, the more you sell.” 

John Caples, one of America's most famous copywriters writes in Tested Advertising Methods (Chapter 11), “Advertisers who can trace the direct sales results from their ads use long copy because it pulls better than short copy.”

And its put most succinctly in Ogilvy On Advertising (Chapter 6), “Long copy sells more than short.”

One of the basic reasons for this is that when we are selling something, the consumer wants to know about the product. 

Todays attention environment

So does their advice still ring true? Does the explosion of video, increase in mobile use, and shortening of the human attention span say that the long copy is no longer a good idea?

Be bold

The 8 second figure is an average.

If we can get their attention it is much higher. In this article, I discuss the risks and rewards of bold or provocative advertising. A person whose attention is piqued, will want to know more about the product they are potentially purchasing.

Leverage video

I would venture to say that if the marketing masters were alive today, they would say that video can be a form of long copy. Whether the person is reading the copy or it is being told through video, the techniques still apply. Specifics are more believable than generalities and long headlines that say something are more effective than short headlines that say nothing are both still true and can be applied to video.


Lastly, these obstacles just highlight the importance of a good headline. Researching and spending time finessing a good headline are more integral than ever. While attention spans have grown more limited, they haven't totally been eliminated. 


I would be remiss if I didn't mention the importance of testing. As with every step of the marketing campaign, proper attention and budget must be given to budget. Untested advertising is wasted advertising.

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