Harry Potter and The Obtuse Client

Seeing the StrawberryFrog ad that has 3 paragraphs of body copy made me flash back to every client I ever had that would demand to see bullet points instead of sentences. And the Creative Circus student who presented me an ad with two paragraphs and dubbed it a “long copy” ad.
So are people reading anymore? If the Harry Potter books are any indication, people still read. But as an industry, are we giving them anything worth reading? Are clients the ones who don’t have any patience?

Combined, the books in the Harry Potter series have sold over 250 million copies worldwide. Somebody’s reading all those words. Words that are typeset on pages. Pages that are bound in book form.
So why the hell do my clients think a paragraph with 3 sentences of copy is “too long” for their audience?
It’s not consumers who have the short attention spans. It’s the clients. Because today’s clients aren’t concerned with brand equity, customer relationships, or long-term initiatives. It’s a project-to-project, deliverable-to-deliverable existence. They’re worried about their jobs—and surviving in those jobs for one more month.

It’s the focus of my new column on Talent Zoo. Enjoy.

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About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.

  • http://www.brainsonfire.com/blog Spike Jones

    Very interesting take, Danny.
    But I think that it’s apples and oranges. People buy books to read the book – that’s their intention from the beginning. But when you come across an ad – which most people don’t seek out – you have to make the decision then and there if you’re going to read it or not. You bought the magazine to read the articles, etc. Not necessarily to read the ads. People’s leisure time is limited, anyway. They hardly have the time to read the articles, let alone three paragraphs of copy for a new printer or car.
    But I digress. I’m a fan of StrawberryFrog. They’re smart. And they wrote all that copy for a reason.
    You’ve definitely given me something to think about.

  • http://www.adcolumnist.com Danny G

    Spike, you’re right, it’s definitely the most unfair of comparisons. We’re in the business of interrupting people, rather than something they seek out.
    But I’m noticing it with everything I’m doing lately–including brochures and mail pieces designed to tell a larger, more involved message. It’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We & our clients think people aren’t ever going to pay attention, so we don’t bother trying to command their attention.

  • True

    I think the length of copy all depends on the media and your intention for the piece. Most ads should be made to be as compelling as possible, as quickly as possible, to get the consumer wanting more.
    Then once you get them taking the next step in exploring your product, you can spend more time “romancing” them. This is why good writers who are also savvy about online are going to be so important in the years to come.
    I do agree with your argument that most clients could care less about the customer or their brand so long as they look good for their bosses.