20 Feb

Is the art of copywriting dead? (not to be confused with “copyright”)


More and more marketing is visual. Fewer people take the time to read even short passages of text.

Super bowl ads get the glory while most people assume text on their website never gets read.

Bosses delegate the job of writing (copywriting) the company’s marketing to the lowest bidder or an employee that’s willing to take on the task.

So does it really matter who writes your website, blog, sales literature and social media posts?

Is the art of copywriting dead?

Long-form vs. short-form advertising

If you type “long form advertising” into Google some interesting links pop up:

“Why long form content marketing works and why it doesn’t”

“Long form advertising: A growing opportunity”

“Branded content: Why long-form ads are the wave of the future”

What does “long form” mean?

It means lots of words—or “copy” as it’s called in marketing.

Full-page ads for Bose’s famous noise cancelling headphones you may have seen while browsing an in-flight magazine are a modern long-form advertising classic.

The ads are informative, detailed and well-written, and that’s because Bose’s founder Amar Bose was a big believer in the effectiveness of long-form advertising.

Have things changed?

Maybe. Bose’s current CEO Bob Maresca told CNET last year:

“We used to have a forum with our copy-heavy direct marketing ads and people read it. But people don’t read anymore so we’re struggling with this new way of short attention spans, how to get people to actually listen.”

Here’s a video of a short-form Bose NFL ad.

All visuals. All sound. Little or no text. Just 30 seconds.

The problem is, not every product or service can best be sold with just sound and video.

Take for example a fitness tracker watch.

How do you win over customers in such an intensely competitive market?

Lots of words

One of the reasons Amazon.com is driving traditional retail into the ground (besides one-click shopping and Amazon Prime delivery) is because Amazon gives you lots of product information in just one place—including reviews from other buyers.

(Tell me you don’t read buyers’ reviews on Amazon and I won’t believe you.)

For starters, the description for this Fitbit watch on Amazon is no less than 169 words.

And that’s just the description. There’s lots more text to read.

Chances are Fitbit’s marketing director didn’t outsource the copywriting to the lowest bidder or a novice.

Every. Single. Word. Counts.

One of Fitbit’s competitors on Amazon wants your attention so badly they made the headline to their watch 26 words long:

“Fitness Tracker with Real-time Heart Rate Monitor, Runme Activity Tracker Smart Watch with Sleep Monitor, IP67 Water Resistant Pedometer Bracelet with Call/SMS Remind for iOS/Android Smartphone”

(I’m not so sure I would call that good copywriting.)

Long-form and the age of SEO

In today’s world of “search engine optimization” the future of long-form advertising looks positively golden.

Neil Patel is one of Forbes Magazine’s top ten marketers.

Patel notes on his website that President Obama recognized him as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30.

The way Patel sees it, long-form advertising is the best way to boost your website’s rankings.

“High quality, in-depth long form content is crucial to increasing rankings, driving search engine traffic, and encouraging a better conversion rate,” Patel writes on his web site.

“You better get used to creating the highest quality long-form content in your niche. This means striving for 2,000 words, but realizing that 3,000 is even better.”

Who writes your marketing?

So who writes your long-form marketing?

Do they understand your product or service? Target market?

Are they able to incorporate the “keywords” that drive organic search engine traffic to your site?

What about your blogs and social media posts? Is the writing consistent with your creative strategy, and company’s tone and voice?

Finally, how do you select someone to write your marketing content?

These are questions I’ll leave for a future article.

For now, long-form advertising is clearly in vogue, and Amar Bose is still spot-on.

The future of the art of copywriting looks bright.

Mark Browne is a professional marketing writer, journalist and Brazilian Portuguese and Mexican Spanish translations provider originally from Boston. He has written marketing copy for the semiconductor, travel and leisure, business consulting, consumer goods, retail and other industries. His articles have been published by Bank Technology News, US Banker, The Boston Business Journal and the Associated Press. Mark can be reached at markb@mbrowne.com