Should copy length be based on what you’re selling?

Some copywriters think that if you’re advertising a low-value item, like a chocolate bar, you should use short copy. Then for a big-ticket item, say a luxury car, you need long copy. I think this makes sense as a general rule. But sometimes it pays to break it. In the UK, Cadbury’s captivated newspaper readers with this nostalgic ad for Wispa:

Press ad by agency Publicis, London. Copywriter: Alex Ball

Conversely, you can occasionally see an ad for a luxury product which is powerful because it uses just a stunning shot, a short headline and a logo, like this one for Land Rover:

Poster for agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R. Copywriter: Mike Boles

4 replies
  1. Michael Morrison
    Michael Morrison says:

    Good topic. These days I’m inclined to think not though – jut look at Apple for instance. I think largely the rule book should’ve been thrown out the window a long time ago and each client should be approached with an entirely open mind.

  2. Dean
    Dean says:

    Michael – I agree with you about each client being approached with an open mind. Apple can afford to dispense with copy (altogether in the case of their iPad ads) because they’re a long-established brand. It takes a brave advertiser to launch an expensive product with little or no copy. Here’s an early Apple ad:

    early Apple ad - 1970s

  3. Pete Jones
    Pete Jones says:

    I don’t think there should be a hard and fast rule, it very much depends on what’s needed to sell the product. If you can be satisfied that you’ve managed this in a few words then great, anything else would be over-selling. There’s also the question of how much of a story a picture can tell. Even in this hum-dinger digital age the art of advertising still requires a duo to produce effective ads.

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