Draft great online ad copy:

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”

That English proverb comes from the second act of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but for copywriters in the distracted digital age of 140 characters, brevity is more than a path to being witty – it’s an imperative.

Veteran copywriters will tell you about a time when print advertising had lots of copy. And, many of those ads are still held up as some of the best of all time. Consider this [1915 advertisement for Cadillac](http://blog.hubspot.com/agency/long-copy-ads) – the company still receives requests for copies of this piece 100 years after it was printed.

But, the reality of online banner ads, which now have to exist on an even smaller mobile screen, is you have just a few words to entice the audience to click to learn more. These small banner ads can play out over four or five animated frames, giving the clever copywriter a chance use a short sentence to grab clicks.

All this got me thinking about the [Burma Shave](http://burma-shave.org/jingles/1950/his_cheek) ads popular in the 1950s. No, I wasn’t alive in the ’50s, but I’m a history buff and remember hearing about the signs. The campaign cost $200 in 1925 and used words that played out sequentially to make a clever little line about the then-new brand of brushless shave cream and after-shave lotion. Here’s an example:

“If you think
She likes
Your bristles
Walk bare-footed
Through some thistles.”

So, perhaps today’s digital advertising is an example of “what is old is new again.” And perhaps clever copywriters can find a way to draw viewers by having stories play out over several words.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.