Advertising 101: Is It True People Don't Read Anymore?

There’s one thing I’ve heard more than anything else when it comes to digital advertising.

Over and over again, I’ve heard people say, “Let’s keep the copy short because people don’t read anymore.”

Exactly how people say it varies, but it’s always about keeping copy short because people don’t read anymore.

But is that true? Do people really not read anymore? The answer to this question may surprise you.

Do People Really Not Read Anymore?

It’s safe to assume people read less now than they used to and instead watch TV or YouTube videos more than they did in the 1920s.

That’s a given, but it’s not the question you need to answer when it comes to advertising.

Instead, you need to answer the question of whether or not people read ads anymore. The answer to this question is a little more complicated.

You see, people read when they’re interested in more information. If they’re not interested in your product, then they won’t read, but if they are interested in your product, there’s a chance they’ll read every line of copy, even if it’s 1,500 words long.

So the question to answer isn’t, “Do people read as much now as they used to?” and instead is, “Will people who are interested in my product be willing to read more to learn more about it?”

To answer this question, there are a few helpful rules of thumb to follow.

Rule of Thumb #1: Complicated Products Need Longer Copy

The first rule of thumb is that complicated products need more copy.

Let’s say you sell a laser hair removal product. Hair removal is a complicated process that people are going to be skeptical about. Thus, in order to sell laser hair removal, you’re going to need to do more explaining than you would for a pack of gum.

So keep in mind that the more complicated or technical your product is, the more copy you’re going to need to write.

Laser hair removal devices are complicated and confusing which means they require more copy to sell.

Rule of Thumb #2: Expensive Products Need Longer Copy

Expensive products also need longer copy.

As mentioned, a pack of gum doesn’t require a lot of copy to sell, but a $450 laser hair removal product does.

Think about it this way. If you’re going to drop $450 for a laser hair removal product, you want to be really certain it’s going to work.

You’re going to read all the copy that’s available. And the reviews. And the testimonials. Etc.

So keep this rule of thumb in mind: if your product is on the expensive side, then you’re going to need more copy to convince people to pay more money for your product.

Rule of Thumb #3: Your Copy Should Be As Long As It Needs to Be But No Longer

The last rule of thumb is that your copy should be as long as it needs to be but no longer.

In other words, if you need to write more in order to close the sale, then write more and cover more benefits for your product, but if you don’t need to write more, then don’t.

It’s helpful to consider how you would sell the product in person when considering this point. If you were selling to someone in person, you would talk as much as you need to talk in order to close the sale, and then you would shut your mouth once your prospective customer is ready to buy.

The same is true for copy. You need to include as many points as you need in order to make the sale, but you don’t want to include so many points that you talk yourself out of the sale.

One More Important Point to Consider

The final point to consider is that more copy doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of a long sales letter.

Instead, more copy can come in the form of better photos (photos are worth a thousand words), a video (if a photo is worth 1,000 words, videos are worth 10,000), bullet points, diagrams, etc.

So just because you need more copy doesn’t mean you have to write something extremely long that may or may not get read (although if people are really interested and your copy is well written, prospects will read a lot). Instead, you may need super concise bullet points, better product photos, concise explanations, etc.

Where’s the Proof?

When it comes to Facebook ads, we try to keep the copy short and sweet so people can quickly decide whether or not they want to take action and so they don’t have to click “More” to read more.

But we also A/B test longer copy to see whether or not it works.

For example, in the Tuck and Bundle baby wrap ad below, we tested a long testimonial that requires people to click “More” in order to read the whole ad. Normally we don’t like to do this, but this testimonial is particularly good so we decided to test it.

So did it work?

We ended up increasing campaign-wide ROAS 33% by using this new testimonial in our ads, which goes to show that sometimes long copy is better than short.

Sometimes longer copy is better than short which is why you should always test, test, and then test some more.

Wrapping It Up

These recommendations are based on what we’ve learned from spending over a million dollars on ads, but just in case you need more proof, here’s what Claude Hopkins, the author of Scientific Advertising, one of the most respected books ever written about advertising, had to say about the subject.

Some say “Be very brief. People will read for little.” Would you say that to a salesman? With a prospect standing before him, would you confine him to any certain number of words? That would be an unthinkable handicap.

Claude Hopkins, Scientific Advertising

Here’s to your breakthrough success in 2019 now that you know this important principle about ad copywriting and are no longer “handicapped” by the erroneous thought that “people don’t read anymore.”

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Joseph Putnam

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