The rise of copy-driven ads

TRENDAFRiCA October 28, 2013

By Chris Human

What makes you look twice at an ad? Bright colours? Bold design? Copy that shocks, inspires or excites you? Or maybe a combination of these attributes? We’ve noticed that copy-driven ads are on the rise, and this trend has brought copywriters into the hot-seat.

How adverts have evolved over time

Copy was king in the 30s and 40s – adverts made lengthy statements and identified brand names. This all changed in the 60’s with Bill Bernbach’s revolutionary adverts like VW’s Think Small starting a new trend – ads became smarter, savvier, and copy and art began to work together.

This led to the ‘golden age’ of advertising in the 80s, which spawned adverts like Apple’s infamous 1984 spot.

Artwork really began to take centre-stage in the 90s and copy was shortened to just a few lines, like Nike’s Just Do It adverts. By the 2000s, the copywriter’s role had merged with that of the art director – ad agencies believed that no one had the time to read long bodies of copy. Adverts were all about the less-is-more philosophy, visual gags, and a logo in the bottom corner.

Just over a decade later, this trend is starting to swing the other way. Is this a bold tactic to get busy consumers to actually pause, absorb and respond to an ad? Or maybe it’s a natural response to the growing demand for quality content? Whatever the cause, these copy driven ads needs to be highly captivating and visually impressive as well as well written.

Why we like long-copy ads…

1.       Targeted brand positioning: As competition increases and consumers become more savvy, the positioning of a brand has become much more complex. Take car manufacturers as an example – in the past they could “claim” a unique selling point: the safest car, the most efficient car, or the fastest car. It’s a lot more difficult to sum up a product’s positioning in one line in the world we live in today. Positioning a “safe car that is still sexy but in a paired down Swedish way that is as cool for you as a young architect, as it is for your grandpa whose horn-rimmed glasses, like his old Volvo, are chic again in a retro way,” needs a little more copy than just a few simple words.

2.       Bigger brand personality: Some reputable brands are well known for their short punchy lines, think Bosch for example, or a brand that oozes confidence and attitude, such as Diesel. Long copy may never work for these brands; but for the rest, the ability to write great copy that consumers will read is increasingly attractive. Long copy allows for the brand tone to shine through more strongly. Using a longer body copy can give you the opportunity to convey the brand’s personality in an established brand voice that you wouldn’t be able to do with just a sentence or two.

3.       More interaction: Long copy also gives advertisers the opportunity to interact with the consumer, strike up a conversation, drum home an idea or tell a story, which are all important tools for a brand builder – especially in an age where brands are competing on an increasingly overcrowded stage. Michael Wolff, one of the top names in brand building globally, has this to say on the subject: “It has gotten harder and harder to build brands, move merchandise, convey a message, leave a lasting impression.” Wolff argues that the job of the copywriter should be to get someone to read the copy –  the more the reader is engaged with what you are saying, the more they engage with the brand and what you are selling.

Going ahead I think this little micro trend speaks quite nicely to a thirst for brands, businesses and products that have something to say for themselves. Of course, it also bodes well for copywriter.


Source: Our trendspotter, Chris Human, is co-founder of Engage Brandcraft

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