This is what Dave Trott says in the new edition of The Copy Book (2012):
“I was always taught, 5% of people who turn to your page read the headline.
And 5% of the people who read the headline, read the copy.
If that’s true, the copy is 5% of 5% of the ad.
In which case, who are we writing the copy for?”
Ex-colleague and cracking copywriter, Simon Sinclair, has written a brilliant piece about Dave Trott’s point of view on his blog Raving Adman .
Here I’ve adpated his figures for an ad that might run in the New Zealand Herald:
Even if your ad only ran once in The New Zealand Herald, the average daily readership of The Herald is 553,000 (according to Nielsen). Of those, 5% – 27,650 people – will read your headline.
27,650 people reading your ad for a Glasson’s top or a chocolate bar is pretty good.
But if you’re selling something like a Bose sound system or even a really good pair of shoes – as Simons says, 5% of those people are also highly likely to be willing to read some body copy.
So you’d have 13,825 warm leads, who would love to be able justify to someone why they’ve blown that week’s food bill a new Bose sound system, or a $300 pair of shoes, or whatever it may be. The fact is they are ready to hear what you have to say – to be sold to even.
Again, as Simon says, surely no client would turn their noses up at 27,650 extra sales. Could they actually make those sales to customers who patently didn’t get enough from the headline to drop the newspaper there and then to head straight for the shop?
Let’s start writing decent copy again and not just rely on the perfection of a headline and picture or, worse still, just a picture.
Simon Sinclair, like me, has the deepest respect for Dave Trott and his work, but he balances Trott’s thoughts with three of his own: 1. Copy can’t be too long, it can only be too boring. 2. Arguing over how long a piece of copy should be is like discussing how tall a general should be. 3. Copy should be as long as it needs to be, but no longer.
True, sometimes copy just isn’t necessary but if it’s relevant, interesting and useful, it has a right to be there.
Last word from Simon again: “The answer to the reproach that nobody reads copy any more is not simply to admit defeat and refuse to write any, it’s to learn how to write copy that people want to read.”
I don’t say, “Hear, hear.” I say write, write.