News and views to improve the strength and vigor of all your direct response marketing activity.

Should your digital ads be as “copy light” as possible? Great question, but the answer isn’t as cut and dried as you’d think. Let’s explore why …

You think about digital ads and figure: “Attention spans are shorter in today’s world (ooh look, a squirrel!). As I start planning digital ads (Facebook and Google Display Network) as part of my omnichannel Medicare campaign, I think I need to keep my ad copy super short and save all the meat for the landing page. I would imagine you guys are on board with that. It’s less to write, right?”

Ahhh … if only marketing were that simple. We would enlist an army of variations on the “Just Do It” cultural touchstone and call it a job well done! And you’d have the ROI to prove it.

Hot Tip: More copy can be more effective. But sometimes, depending on the tactic, it’s not always better.

Much has, indeed, changed over our 38+ years as a winning direct response agency, including several mind-blowing revolutions … hello internet, social media, mobile, direct television, baby boomers entering retirement, just for the biggies.

And in the midst of setting sales records and creating award-winning campaigns, perhaps our biggest task is staying informed. We do this by keeping our ear to the ground, the guidance of tons of relevant experience, national market studies — and testing, testing, testing.

While, yes, short and sweet … i.e., 7 seconds of lingering before moving on … may be the norm for most of the ad world, in the world of direct response, and Medicare (where we dwell a lot of the time), things are a bit different.

“There is evidence, borne out by research and our own learnings, that longer copy is valued greatly by the Medicare audience — believe it or not, some people DO read,” says Sean Clark, DMW’s Executive Creative Director.

Clark continues, “Especially with complicated products and considered purchases, people may crave more detail. As a result, we see longer forms selling more — like two-minute DRTV spots; over :30s. Full mail packages with 2-sided letters and brochures beating out postcards. And, yes, at times: longer copy in digital, too. When you want optimal sales, we’d suggest you test longer copy against a shorter copy version, with other variations.”

Sometimes, that means opting for longer-form Facebook lead generation and video ad formats vs. simple newsfeed ads. And letting the primary text block in newsfeed ads run long causing them to truncate, using the “(see more)…” functionality.

Keep in mind, too, exactly how hard each character of a digital ad is working. They’re not just sitting there on a page. They’re being searched for, unearthed, de-spammed, set, matched, and served.

Digital ads are like the haikus of direct marketing — the suffered-over, boiled-down, bite-sized essence of your campaign, created with the utmost care. That extra effort pays off in the most successful digital ads, and we’d love to create some for you.

But sometimes, more copy isn’t better.

Say you’re doing a marketing campaign for a Medicare health insurance plan — which are state specific, meaning only residents of that state can sign up. You develop digital ads and direct mail to drive prospects to a landing page offering a FREE (best word in direct marketing) Medicare planner with a lead capture form.

You craft the landing page with all the key points about the plan and convey to prospects, “What’s In It For Me” — i.e., more copy. And your digital media plan targets only the state residents. BUT, what happens if search engines can’t index your specific page, so people from outside the state end up on your landing page, too?

You get too many unqualified leads! Why? Several reasons: First, because the search engines couldn’t index your page. AND because there’s way too much copy — prospects don’t read it and only see the large CTA headline, “Download your FREE Medicare Savings Planner.” So they go right to filling out the lead capture form and click the “Submit” button. And then, your client ends up with tons of unqualified leads, so they have to filter out the good leads.

Moral of the story: YES, test more and less copy in your tactics driving traffic. But NO, don’t overwrite your landing pages — keep the copy succinct and instantly tell prospects they’re in the right place, reiterate the offer that drove them to the page, and have a large lead capture form (with as few fields as possible) above the fold.

Well, that’s the answer to getting great response rates, more or less.

If that’s not enough, do read more of what our ECD Sean Clark has to say on this topic in his blog post, Getting More From Your Digital Ads.