Who Needs Long Copy!

long copy

I find that both clients and creative directors are increasingly losing interest in body copy in print ads. In fact, years ago, when I was working in advertising, many creative directors would write the headlines for campaigns and then pass them on to rookie copywriters to write the mandatory body copy, the quality of the copy be damned. I also remember that whenever I would show print campaigns with long body copy to clients, most would invariably want the copy to be reduced drastically. Quite sad, really!

Good body copy complete ads. I remember some really great ads in which the body copy was so interestingly written that I totally empathised with the message and the brand. Some twenty years ago, I saw (and fully read) a lovely print ad written by Trikaya Grey’s Christopher Rosario; I can’t lay my hands on the ad but remember it well. The headline of the ad said (although I may be a bit off), ‘Don’t be scared of computers. They are man’s best friend.’ The ad had a visual of a dog in the middle and the rest of the space was occupied by body copy that compellingly explained why computers were man’s best friend.

Take a look below at the couple of ads with long copy (and one of them is for a brand of chocolate). Don’t they make you want to read the copy?



One thing is for sure – not everyone who sees a print ad ends up reading the body copy; in fact, researches have shown that just about 5-10% of readers actually go through the body copy. What clients and creative directors don’t get is that even this percentage adds up to a pretty sizeable number; I mean, just one newspaper (or magazine) could have a readership running into a million or more. Also, the key elements in a press ad are the headline and the visual. I blame these for failing to get readers to get into the body copy! The headline and the visual in a print ad have two important jobs to perform – they must stop the readers and they must get them to read the body copy. Period.

Just in case you are getting the impression that I am in favour of long body copy for all ads, that is not so.  There are some outstanding ads that use enough copy to make their point and there are others that use no body copy to be effective. Given below are some examples:


old car



So how does one determine how long the body copy for an ad should be? Various factors would play a part:

  • The creative idea. Some creative ideas need long body copy, some don’t. If an idea works well without any body copy, there is no point in forcing copy in.
  • The product. If a product is a new concept that needs explaining or if it has multiple features, uses and benefits, one should go with long copy. If a product is of low value, its ad may not need long copy (although there a millions of examples that will disprove this). Specialty products and expensive products may need longer copy.
  • The target group. Some people want as much information about a product as possible. In today’s internet era, people tend to check everything on the net and one can pre-empt them by explaining the details in the body copy.
  • The price. More expensive products, especially technology products, need more copy to justify the high price. Of course, one has seen ads for luxury brands that have used very little body copy.

To put it bluntly, there can be no hard and fast rules on body copy in print ads. I mean, would you expect copy ads for McDonald’s. Chances are that you would say no. Yet, DDB Stockholm and its maverick creative director Magnus Jakobsson created two copy based ads for McDonald’s. Both have become talking points for the advertising and media fraternity.

The first ad in defense of cheese (and narrated by cheese) was released in 2012. Almost two years later they have come out with an ad featuring a run-of-the-mill pickle. One has to compliment Jakobsson for coming out with offbeat ads for a fast food brand like McDonald’s. McDonald’s deserves an even bigger compliment for encouraging such ads (shown below):



Jakobsson obviously has his own style of advertising that uses long copy. Given below is an example of what he created for Paper Cut, a software company that helps organisations cut their print costs.


As a marketer or an advertising copywriter, don’t look at long body copy with suspicion. Long copy may just bring your message to life and get people to view your brand favourably.

Visual courtesy : https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

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This article was written by andy

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