The power of intelligent long copy

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You’ve probably heard it a million times:

“No one reads long copy.”

But is it true?

Copy is text.

People read long text all the time, in the form of news articles and blog posts – like the one you’re reading now.

And they read it because it’s interesting (to them at least).

So maybe a more accurate statement would be:

“No one reads dull, boring copy.”

My view is that if you make copy interesting and relevant to your target audience, people will read it. Lots of it.

But there’s no point in using long copy when short copy will do.

Sometimes though, an argument can’t be put across in a sentence or two.

You need to seduce readers, get them on your side, paint a picture, make your case and cajole them to change their minds or do something.

That takes time and, usually, quite a few words.

On such occasions you need long copy.

Is it an ad? What's it for? Click to read and find out

On the left is a recent example of long copy that’s been appearing in newspapers and magazines here in London over the past few weeks.

Its greatest strength is that it doesn’t look like an ad (thank the art director for that).

There’s no logo, or any other obvious sign of what the ad might be for.

Just a photo or painting of the back of a man standing at a window.

Then a headline that gives nothing away: “What are you waiting for?”

And then there are hundreds of words of copy.

This is a “Read the copy to find out what it’s about” ad.

Many creative directors I’ve known wouldn’t buy such an approach.

And I suspect that if you proposed it to the average client they’d consider firing you.

Yet it was the mystery of this ad that drew me in.

Of course, the adman in me was saying, this had better be worth it.

And I did stop to wonder a few times if this advertiser knew what they were doing, or if they were just throwing their money away.

But one intriguing sentence led to another, and I soon found myself hooked.

The whole secretive approach said a lot about the advertiser.

By the time I found that MI6 was behind the ad, I wasn’t surprised, but I was impressed.

By leading me on with questions about myself, I learned what sort of person MI6 is looking to recruit as agents.

I could sense the confidence of the organisation behind this ad.

Who else would have the nerve to take this approach and make it work?

It’s a discreet, intelligent ad recruiting intelligence people.

I mean, you wouldn’t run an ad that shouts:




No, neither of those would do.

Or you could run a no-nonsense ad in the appointments pages with a headline like:

MI6 seeks intelligence officers.                                                                                                                                         Successful candidates will…etc

But come on. We’re talking about a job in international espionage!

It’s got to sound exciting, but in a cool, intelligent way.

And that’s why, for me, the ad you see on the left hits the mark.

I think it’s brilliant use of long copy.

I don’t know who wrote it.

Maybe that’s a top secret.




2 replies
  1. Pete
    Pete says:

    I like that ad too Dean. I bet it got plenty of applicants.

    I also liked your unsuitable alternative headlines re James Bond etc. Reminds me of when I once wrote recruitment ads for Broadmoor nurses (strange but true, it was a long time ago). It was all I could do to stop myself suggesting that the headline should be: “You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps.”

  2. Dean
    Dean says:

    Hi Pete. Recruiting nurses for Broadmoor – priceless. Funny headline too. I think, with really odd recruitment jobs, you can play it straight and it’ll still be surprising. Years ago Saatchis ran an ad to recruit Britain’s first astronaut, with the headline “ASTRONAUT WANTED. NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY.” Isn’t that great? Anyway thanks for your comment. I hope you’re keeping busy.

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