Is Copy Dead? The Surprising Answer …


Poke around the Internet and you’ll find articles and blogs detailing the death of copy and, much to my chagrin, copywriters.

Writing in USA Today, Michael Wolff states:

“We just don’t look at advertising, respond to it, or believe it, as much as we once did, wherever it appears. Maybe this is the reason: There are no writers in advertising anymore. Johnny who can’t write has gone into advertising. In fact, ‘copywriter’ is a job that now hardly exists.”


Tim Riley, head of copy for ad agency AMV BBDO writes in a blog,

“Copy is dead. Everyone says so. It’s all about visuals now. Sad, but there it is.”

In a recent email, copywriter Bob Bly quoted a freelance writer who wrote:

“In today’s market, stay away from advertising. Advertising doesn’t work. Copywriting is finished. If you want to sell, you must write content, not advertising. Consumers respond to content. They hate advertising.”

For the record, Bly disagreed with the statement.

To be specific, these authors are saying a certain type of copy is dying: tons of words on a page (print or web). The replacements?

  • Social media
  • Blogs
  • Articles
  • Content marketing
  • YouTube

In other words… content.

Because of sheer volume, many marketers believe content on social media is the future of marketing—and pretty much everything.

I disagree. Is copy dead? Of course not. And here’s why…

Copy is critical to sales

I recently ran into the owner of a company who paid over $ 50,000 to get a celebrity to endorse their product. The product costs about $ 75.

They’re going to have to sell a TON of the product to get their money back. But they chose this celebrity because of his 1.5 million followers on Twitter.

Here’s the theory: The celebrity will tweet about the product and the product will fly out of the warehouse.

It will not happen. You get 10-20 words on Twitter before you run out of space. Let me ask you a question. Will you buy a $ 75 product based on 10-20 words? Of course not.

Social media can help with brand awareness and it can drive some traffic, but to sell big numbers of a product that’s not something you really need—especially one that costs $ 79—you may need 2,000 to 3,000 words of copy on a web page.

I know this because I regularly write these pages and one of them just generated well over $ 1.5 million in revenue and represented 63% of the company’s sales in 2013.

Confidentiality keeps me from revealing all, but it was in the golf space. You need a roof over your head more than you need golf equipment. Tweets will not sell much golf equipment, but a finely-tuned landing page can generate massive revenue.

Copy is getting longer, not shorter

In October last year, I attended the AWAI Fast Track to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair, which is the annual trade show for direct response copywriters and content providers.

Bill Bonner, the founder of Agora, was the keynote speaker. Agora is a leading international publisher of financial, health, and travel information. The “typical” Agora sales page for even an entry-level product is well over 2,000 words.

After his excellent speech, someone in the audience asked, “Is long copy still working?”

Bonner replied, “Copy is getting longer.”

He was talking about the long-form sales copy for his products and services, but let me take his thought one step further: In today’s marketing environment, there’s more than copy.

Today’s sales copy embraces traditional sales copy PLUS blogs, articles, emails, and social media content.

So copy isn’t dead; it’s expanded.

My clients increasingly ask me to write the full suite of copy to sell their products. So I write Google AdWords ads, online display ads, advertorials, landing pages, emails, blogs, Twitter posts, and more.

The ultimate goal is to funnel the potential customer to a page where I make the full pitch; that page leads to the page where you enter credit card information and hit the “buy” button.

Let’s see some examples of modern copy.

Information marketing consultant Fred Gleeck writes a blog. But his ultimate goal is to sell information marketing advice through information products and consulting.

The blog, like all good blogs, provides raw information and advice, but isn’t directly selling. However, the blog builds trust and warms up the potential client so they eventually opt in to his database—then ultimately buy a product.

copy dead 1

If you send regular emails to your database (opt-in of course) you have to be careful about how many sales-y emails you send. Many major marketers use a ratio of 4 informational emails to each full-tilt sales email.

Here’s an email from Dan Kennedy that’s much more informational than sales-y although it ultimately leads to a sales page.

dan kennedy screenshot

Andrew Wood, who markets information and consulting to golf courses and small business owners, loves Facebook as a way to reach his audience. He also pitches his products and services on YouTube.

But ultimately, Andrew wants you to visit this page where you sign up for his golf marketing bootcamp.

copy dead 3

Then to this page where you plop down your credit card.

copy dead 4

Copy is alive and well. Let me augment this thought—especially if you believe that content marketing alone will revolutionize your business. Make sure your content is geared toward making a sale. Simply providing information you think someone might find interesting is a total and complete waste of valuable typing energy.

Organize your content around your marketing strategy and not the other way around.

People who follow the latter are the ones who believe that copy is dead and copywriters have no value.

Today’s most successful marketers understand the value of complementary copy and assign copywriters who understand how to sell to write this content.

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Scott Martin.

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