Wednesday, February 14, 2018

No one reads anymore.

If you make your living, as I do, with the first knuckle of your fingers down to your very tips, you’re probably as tired as I am of hearing the platitude that no one reads copy anymore.

I stumbled upon a quote yesterday attributed to Bill Bernbach. I can’t seem to find the actual words, but I got the gist.

A client said to him about an ad, “Why’d you write all that copy, no one reads copy anymore.”

Bernbach said, “10% of people do. That’s who I’m writing for. The 10% of people who read.”

I don’t for a second thing my copy, good as it is, is going to reach non-readers. But as Mr. Bernbach said, some people will read it. And they will read it because they are interested in the subject of the ad. My job is to inform and persuade people—the people who read.

You can say, no one reads anymore.

But that is unproven. 

My guess is that the percentage of people who read ads probably hasn’t changed that much since advertising was invented—back in Sumerian times or before. I’d bet Bernbach’s estimation of 10% of people who are stopped by the ad will read it is just about right. That number will probably read the ad whether it has 50 words, or 250. Planners reading this—do you have any data that shows people are reading less than they did 10 years ago, or even 5?

Of course, people skip all sorts of ads.

A successful banner ad earns 6 clicks per 10,000 views. Have you chosen to dispense with digital media?

What’s more, if I haul out my dog-eared copy of “Ogilvy on Advertising,” I’d probably assert that readership will likely go up, not down, as copy length increases. Visually it appears you have something to say. And if you’re blessed, as I am, to work with great art directors, designers and typographers, an ad—even an ad with ‘a lot of copy’ might even be inviting.

The word no one, as in no one reads anymore, really distresses me. The tribal state of the world suggests to me that if you wanted to form a club of left-handed fish scalers who play badminton every other Tuesday, you could probably gain thousands of members. In fact, some years ago, I started a fictional Facebook group called “the Foreskin Liberation Authority.” I get membership requests still.

In other words, there is no no one anymore.

More esoteric coteries of people are catered to than readers. We target ads to all sorts of groups--many of them obscure. So why not regard readers as a target? And treat that target with respect.

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