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Thursday, 25 August 2011 15:51

Long or Short Ad—Which is Best?

Written by Tom Franklin

If you’ve ever received a long sales letter, you may have wondered why it was four or more pages long—and who would expect you to read it all?

In the days before the Internet, e-mail and Twitter, snail-mail marketing often included these long sales letters. At that time, statistics proved that recipients who read these long letters were often the ones who bought the product. My wife’s ex-husband was an ad copywriter who made a nice living from writing long ad copy, but no more. Today we’ve entered the era of the short message. Twitter is a prime example. Ad copy must be 140 characters or less. Most advertisers no longer believe people will read long copy. The assumption is most people have a very short attention span and a message must be fast, brief and dramatic to capture viewer interest and attention.


Institutional advertising might lead a shop owner to think all an ad has to do is have an attention grabbing image displaying the company name and product. Nothing could be farther from the truth. National corporate products have large advertising budgets and often simply try to keep the product name in front of the public eye. A gigantic billboard may have a huge photo of an attractive person drinking that company’s beverage and the company name might be so small you could miss it if you didn’t look closely. The thinking behind this is that repetitive viewings will encourage sales of the product. Unless you have very deep pockets, don’t even think about advertising like this. But one aspect of this kind of ad is very accurate: Repetitive viewing can result in a prospect trying or buying the product. The question is: what is the best media to use to convey that brief, repetitive message?


A good start is to think about where you can put a brief message so that it will be seen over and over. One obvious place is a lighted window sign if you have a window that can be seen from a street or road. If not, the entrance to your driveway may front on a road or street where you can put up a changeable sign. A hotel near me that has entertainment and a lounge has a high, lighted sign that can be seen from the freeway. The sign always has a joke or a humorous quote plus an invite to their lounge. When traffic backs up, it’s inevitable that most drivers will read the sign, out of boredom if nothing else. A changing message is the key to getting readership. If you have a website or Facebook page or even a Twitter account, these are obvious places to run a continuously changing message. Even a cheap, weekly-changing classified ad can be effective. And of course, if you can afford it, radio and TV are ideal for this kind of advertising.


Most ad sites are not very adaptable to a changing message. Bench ads, bus ads, print ads, flyers and business cards generally contain long-term messages. Nevertheless, the brief, easy to read and understand message is still a good choice. This often comes out in the form of a slogan. A good rule of thumb is to challenge the reader with an apparent contradiction: “Can cheap auto body repair also be high quality? Call us to find out!” “Can the dent or damage on your car be fixed while you wait? Call us to find out!” If someone is reading a short ad, time, speed and cost are sure to be high priorities for him or her. Your tougher job is selling them on coming in once they call.

It’s also important to not forget that a picture is often worth a thousand words. But even if you have the space for a picture, choosing the right one can be a difficult task. It’s generally best to just illustrate the message in some way. An image suggesting speed, like a race track pit crew, could work. Or just an illustration of a clock with wings. Shop owners like to show a picture of their shop, but this is unlikely to motivate a prospect to come in for repairs. And this raises the most important aspect of the message. It absolutely has to motivate the prospect to respond. There MUST be a demand for action: “Call us to find out!” “Come in for a free estimate.” “Come find out how cheap we can be!”

As good as repetitive short ads may be, there’s nothing like a great repetitive slogan. “You’re in good hands with Allstate,” has been around forever. Even if you totally disagree with the slogan, you know that most people recognize it. That’s the kind of recognition you want to build with a slogan about your shop. Brief but powerful may seem like a contradiction in terms, but if you can create it, it can do great things for your business.

Read 2435 times Last modified on Wednesday, 14 December 2016 21:06