More effective advertising messages

Beware of cleverness. It rarely pays.

You can’t begin to create a communication by laying down in ad­vance how long it should be.

How Long Should a Communication Be?

Some fool asked Abraham Lincoln: “How long should a man’s legs be?” to which he replied with impeccable logic: “Long enough to reach the ground.”

Claude Hopkins, advertising industry genius, wrote: “Would you confine a salesman to any certain number of words? No. That would be unthinkable.”

The right number of words is the number you need to do the job. It may be half a page, it may be three pages, it may be 18 pages. It all depends.

Here are some guidelines worth bearing in mind.

(a) The more you are asking your respondent to do, the longer the copy should be. If you want somebody to send you $ 1000 through the post, this will require a lot of persuasion.

If you want somebody merely to ask for a brochure or catalogue, this will require much less persuasion.

(b) If you merely seek a weak inquiry, the most effective communica­tion will probably be one which includes every advantage of whatever you are offering, omitting all the disadvantages.

The more qualified you wish the inquiry to be, the more disadvan­tages you should mention, obviously in the right sort of way. For instance, it is not sufficient merely to say: “These grommets are extremely expensive.” It is wiser to say: “Since these grommets are the best of their kind, you will appreciate that they are not cheap.”

This often doesn’t inhibit response at all.

(c) Length of copy may be determined by the laziness of the copy­writer. Yet no copy should go out which does not cover every reason­able advantage that the product offers, and which – if you are looking for a sale – does not incorporate copy designed to rebut every con­ceivable objection to buying the product.

(d) Length may be governed by tactical considerations. For instance you may wish to fill an envelope with as much material as it can hold, up to the postal limit. This allows you to include many testimonials, lift letters, guarantees and additional order forms.

(e) The only exception to the long versus short rule is where the target of your message knows your product so well there is no need to explain it, for example a subscription to a magazine he has already read.


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