Ads in the Wild: When Shorter Really IS Better

It’s Tuesday, and that means time for another installment of our “Ads in the Wild Series”  from one of our PPC Hero Allies, Jeff Sexton of BoostCTR, where he dissects and analyzes ads he sees various places online. This series gives an in-depth look at the philosophy and strategy behind these ads and provides actionable advice for anyone looking to improve their ad copy.

A commonly heard bit of advice for Facebook ad copy is that shorter is better; even though you get 135 characters for body copy, you’re often better off staying well short of that and closer to 60-90 characters.

Well… maybe so, maybe no.

Frankly as copywriter, I have a bias towards long-copy, as it always seems to out-pull and out-test short copy.  But a Facebook ad isn’t a sales letter; they’re two different things with two entirely different jobs.

For the job of an ad isn’t to make the sale; the job of an ad is to convince the prospect to give you an opportunity to make the sale.

So in this sense, over-long Facebook copy often underperforms not because of its length per se, but because it doesn’t know how to take “Yes” for an answer.  Here’s a perfect example from a recent BoostCTR test:

PPC Ad Text

In this case, the message is simple: “Your slides, negatives, and film photos are fading — we make it easy and inexpensive to digitally scan them.”

If a prospective customer is actually interested in the emotional appeal to this ad, they’re interested.  Get the heck out of the way and let them make the decision/click.  And that’s exactly what the winning ad (the ad on the right) does.

But not the losing ad. No, no, no.  The losing ad tries to throw in a grab-bag worth of additional messages “lowest price, online albums, only pay for the scans you keep!” — hey, leave all that for the Website, dude!  That’s stuff to cover in the sales spiel, not stuff you need to give them while the prospect is still deciding if it’s time to finally do something with all those shoe boxes full of old slides, poloroids, and 35mm film.

So even though the shorter ad won, it’s not because it’s shorter, but because it kept the highly emotional sales pitch simple and pointed.