London Long Copy Challenge: longing for long copy

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About 3 weeks ago I tweeted about the London Long Copy Challenge – the award to celebrate the artistry behind long copy. In these days of visual-led communication it is nice to see such an effort.

My growing years in advertising were at an agency which was considered king of the print medium and that’s perhaps the reason for my love for the print medium. ‘No one has the time to read so much copy’ has been the refrain against long copy ads – especially from clients. ‘Depends’ has been the weak answer from the agency folk. As Howard Gossage said (borrowed from here), ‘People read what interests them. And sometimes that’s an ad.’

I remember reading this in the context of a ‘Writing Skills’ presentation: ‘those who think well, write well’. I feel some of the approaches to creating good advertising (analyzing the product, understanding competition, putting down a cogent argument for your brand) are brought to test very well when you write long copy ads. I still remember the joy of reading the body copy of print ads from the likes of Chris Rozario and Alok Nanda on brands like Grindwell Norton, Mauritius Tourism etc. (By the way, I am desperately looking for a set of long copy ads done for Grindwell Norton by Chris Rozario in 1990).

In India, there is hardly any encouragement from industry bodies to revive or promote the art of classical copywriting – forget long copy. Most of the youngsters who want to get into the industry or have some experience in agencies seem keen only about television and digital. They seem to have forgotten the art of copywriting and quality of their English sucks. I am re-reading ‘Hey Whipple, Squeeze This’ – this time on my Kindle for iPad (there, I completed my mandatory plug for an Apple product) and I feel it must be made mandatory reading for every copywriter who joins advertising today. Yes, I am all for moving with the times and all that, but it doesn’t hurt to get the basics of writing in place.

Wonder how copywriters of today will react to such ads?

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  1. There are hardly any schools in India that have decent copy courses – Xaviers and MICA have courses in advertising but the onus is on servicing, media and account management, there's not much emphasis on copy-writing.

    I'm 19 and I want to get into copy writing after I graduate. I feel, and i think it's fair to say, that the best way for young copy-writers to prepare themselves for advertising is to read, just read, anything will do – books, magazines, ads, anything. You've got to work on those vocab skills constantly and you've got to love advertising.

    I'm fortunate that my dad is a copywriter. He, like you, believes that you've got to master the English language to become a copywriter. I've heard many a story of copy juniors he has trained, their pathetic grammar and atrocious English speaking ability.

    I've asked my dad to give me a few copy tests that would at least prepare me to write decent copy and get in to advertising as a junior. For those who don't have fathers or family in the business, I suggest that you work at those writing skills, do spec (mock) ads and work on building up a decent portfolio.

    I strongly recommend the books 'Hey Whipple, Squeeze This' and 'Cutting Edge Advertising'. They show you how effective and powerful a great print ad can be. Also, check out the classic VW ads by DDB, they have some of the best copy ever written. It's a shame we don't see ads these days that match up to their quality.

    • Thanks Jason, spot on with your comments. 'Hey Whipple Squeeze This' and 'Cutting Edge Advertising' (along with Cutting Edge TV Commercials) were books I enjoyed years ago. I've even bought the Kindle/iPad edition of 'Hey Whipple…' just to read it all over again. Good to know of your focus and passion for the advertising business at 19! All the very best!

  2. Mayur Milan Reply

    Yes, 'Hey Whipple Squeeze This' was one of the books i read along with the Copybook when i was at SIMC.

    I wonder if those long copy ads were not done, would I have thought of being a copywriter? I guess not.



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