Insights into long copy ads

A review of Westpac's new long copy brand campaign based on findings from our creative benchmarking research.

We seem to be in an age where technology has created an expectation within us that information will be delivered in short, compelling bites and we tend to believe that no one has time to read or ponder the nuances of a longer message. westpac-Proudly-supported-by-australia

Politicians are trained to speak in sound bites that can fit neatly into edited broadcast segments. The youth can arrange their entire social lives using txt shorthand (c U @ d pRT l8r?). Profound thoughts are delivered in a maximum of 140 characters.

So why do advertisers still use newspapers to talk to audiences using long copy?  Surely this is counterintuitive to what we see being demonstrated around us in society every day?  Who reads these ads?

It got us thinking about this when we saw this ad for Westpac’s new brand positioning which uses full pages to present the idea that they have been an integral component in building Australia to be the nation it is today.

Powerful and evocative stuff, but is it effective?

David Ogilvy sometimes placed long copy newspaper ads, to talk about why Ogilvy ads, and especially long copy ads, work. Here’s one of them. Ogilvy-how-to-create-Industrial-Advertising-that-sells

Here’s the important bit: longcopy-ogilvy-graph

Ogilvy makes some very important points, which time again, we have seen borne out in our creative benchmarking research.  To paraphrase the key points:

  • A strong headline is crucial. Most people won’t read beyond it, but your genuine prospects will, as long as they are alerted to the content by the headline.
  • Real prospects are hungry for information.  If your content is of genuine interest, your ad will be read more thoroughly than short copy ads of broader appeal.
  • Complex categories, require more complex messaging.

Ogilvy makes the comparison of a candy bar to a private plane, saying purchases that require a minimal level of commitment require less rationale to stimulate that purchase. Banking and finance are categories that most people find complex and require a high level of commitment and persuasion to follow through – worthy of longer consideration… and copy.

In 2011, we put together a brief report on a handful of long copy ads we’ve tested and what made them effective.  Download it here: Research into long copy: a creative opportunity.

Generally speaking, long copy ads that are either clever or emotional have a better chance of being read by more readers than ads that are heavy on detail (these ads can work, but are for ‘prospects’ rather than about changing brand perceptions) . Long copy ads can deliver strongly to brand differentiation and renewed consumer appraisal. And the headline is the most important copy of all.

So does this make this Westpac newspaper ad effective?  Hard to say (and we haven’t tested it).  But the strategy behind it is interesting. It shows a commitment to newspapers and an understanding that only newspapers, can deliver the appropriate environment to run this type of message.  It trusts that newspaper readers are the right people to ‘get it’ because this is ‘big picture’ stuff appealing to higher order human needs.  And try as you might, you can’t get that across in a tweet or a txt.

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