When time is of essence and possibly the most valued commodity, agencies and clients alike are finding the briefest ways of expression to retain consumer’s attention. Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, Associate Creative Director, Grey Worldwide started the Longhand Copy Awards in 2012. “Longhand is a first-of-its-kind long copy competition in the world,” states Dasgupta.
Dasgupta, popularly known as Bodhi, started Longhand because he felt good copy advertising was dying a slow death in India. “Over the last year, more entries have started coming in from abroad. In fact, this year’s Gold isn’t from India at all. The aim is to resurrect the art of advertising writing, albiet in a small way,” he added.
Longhand received over 500 entries this year. The jury comprised Agnello Dias, Co-Founder, Taproot India; Prasoon Joshi, Executive Chairman for McCann Worldgroup India and Regional Creative Director Asia Pacific; David Shanks, an independent Copy Director. The Jury Presidents were creative legends Neil French and ad guru Luke Sullivan, currently Chair of Advertising at Savannah College of Art and Design.
The Gold winner this year was Lyle Shemer of JWT, New York for his work titled ‘Unlucky’. There were no Silvers this time. The Bronze winners included ‘Excuse’ by Himanshu Saxena of Draftfcb + Ulka; ‘Joke’ by Roy Abraham of Thought Blurb; ‘Iran’ by Anil Kakar of Gasoline; ‘Peanuts are not an in-flight snack’ by Vignesh Raja of DDB Mudra Bangalore; ‘Gift’ by Mukund Sharma of Bates CHI & Partners Bangalore and ‘Imagine’ by Vijay Assudani of Orchard Advertising, Mumbai.
“In all honesty, many entries needed a lot more work. This may sound silly, but too many writers simply do not understand the importance of art direction and typography in a good looking copy ad. I killed most of the entries purely because of these distractions. On the writing side too, many writers still think it’s an exercise in wordplay. It’s about an interesting thought, delivered through an ad that talks to you, with enough wit or notions in there that makes you think. And yes, it must be easy to read. I felt that maybe 10 ads delivered this, no more,” said Shanks, commenting on the entries received this year.
Longhand was born in 2012, on a hot summer Indian afternoon, out of desperation, exasperation and the revelation that writers just don’t write anymore. Longhand started as a ‘free to enter’ format and it intends to stay that way. There are no entry fees, no agency discounts, and no elaborate courier charges. On the downside, there are no fancy gongs, no trips abroad and no elaborate buffets. What there is, however, an inspirational line-up of judges – people who have mastered the craft of copy and who are committed to keeping it alive.
The question is: Will this revival of long copy succeed? Is there a future of this form of copy in India?
“It is a demand and supply situation; it is tough right now, but long copy will survive in the long-run,” said Dias of Taproot India. He also said that there were fewer good entries this year, but the selected entries were very good.
“India has some excellent writers and art directors, but I feel they may be few and far between. Writers really must start getting the D&AD books out and start copying the copy of the best writers. I think Indian writers need to open their minds a bit more about how to get there in a different way. I felt many of the ads were written in isolation rather than ‘How would Indra Sinha or Neil French have tackled this brief?’” shared Shanks.
Does long copy see a better future in other parts of the world? While Dias feels long copy will see a huge revival online, Shanks said, “Keeping long copy alive is good because it preserves and encourages the ability for people to hold a thought for more than 140 characters. As business people and storytellers, we must be comfortable with words. But long copy needs to find its place again. Perhaps as we become more deeply immersed in technology, we might find that long copy resurfaces in a completely different way – through an ad that talks to you.”
Long or short, in the end the aim of copy is to hold the reader’s attention. Will long copy sustain and withstand the challenge of grabbing attention for longer, will be an interesting watch.