Why copy retains value in today's video age

What's the worth of copy in an age where video reigns supreme? The way we consume and process information is changing. Our attention span is getting shorter and shorter. So the format of your content is increasingly decisive.

As an agency, we see the demand for video increasing due to platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. In the demand for more dynamic imagery, words are almost lost. But just as the advent of video did not spell the end for photography, copy also still has its own right to exist. You are about to read how and why in this blog.

1. Copy creates valuable context

A video without copy is like a Planet Earth documentary without David Attenborough. The two complement each other perfectly. Where images touch the heart, words tickle the brain. Language is something we have to learn to ascribe meaning to things.

Copy has the distinctive ability to create a story, emphasize things and address concerns. With copy, you turn a new product into a must-have by highlighting unique features and benefits that excite emotions. Likewise, it gives your image or video context and your message value.

"Pass the Heinz!"

Don Draper brilliantly demonstrates this in the series Mad Men. In a pitch for Heinz Tomato Ketchup, he shows an image of French fries, steak and a hamburger. The images by themselves don't really say anything until Don pops a layer with the activating text "Pass the Heinz" over them. This minimal addition ensures that everyone immediately thinks of tomato ketchup when they see what they like to eat. But of course not without Heinz.

No words needed? Think again!

Create an identity with your own tone of voice

With a certain type of language - a tone of voice - you create your own identity and also build a long-term relationship with your audience. The Dutch retail website CoolBlue is king at this with customer experience as its trademark. CoolBlue's slogan "Everything for a smile" is characteristic of their tone of voice. It is always positive and recurs everywhere, from paying to reading the terms and conditions.

Today, the use of inclusive language is also increasingly important to appeal to everyone. You can see this on the train, for example. The call "Dear ladies and gentlemen..." has been changed to "Dear travelers...". This takes into account non-binary people who do not identify with a gender identity as male or female. In this way, NS is building long-term bonds with its target group.

2. Copy makes your story scannable

Have you ever thought about why we are still more likely to send emails to each other rather than videos or voice memos? A well-designed text structure allows you to screen the text at your own pace and quickly gain information.

Suppose you watch a 3-minute video, how long does it take you to know what it is about in its entirety? Right, three minutes. Sure, you can fast-forward a bit here and there (with video chapters), but try to get the gist of the story out yourself as fast as you scan a text. 

You read faster than you talk

Especially in efficiency of information retrieval, text is preferred to spoken word in video. After all, you read faster than someone talks. The average reader reads 250 words in one minute, where the average speaking time is 150 words in one minute. So you try screening a 40-minute seminar. In your text you can more easily find what you are really interested in, copy paste where necessary and skip the rest through scanning:

  • Titles
  • Headings
  • Headings
  • Punctuation
  • Quotes
  • Anecdotes
  • Links
  • Images

3. Copy increases your findability

Words are essential for your findability and the magic lies in the processing of keywords. The following forms of processing text determine whether or not you will be found in search engines:

  • Titles
  • Headings
  • Alt texts
  • Meta scripts
  • Descriptions
  • Captions
  • Hashtags

And where are you without a high ranking in the algorithm? If potential customers can't find you, your content won't be viewed and your message won't be understood. Especially on social - where video is preferred by users - most content has little or no accurate findability. 

Text is generally more findable and thus great for people who want information. Video likely has a supporting role in this. For example, in the case of a news story. People search on an event and then want to see images to accompany it in the form of video. Video platforms such as YouTube are increasingly adapting to this.

Did you know that you can use copy to increase your findability on the YouTube video platform? Read our SEO tips for YouTube!

4. Copy saves time and costs in production

Something that is not unimportant in the race for attention is the cost. In terms of production, copy is much less labor-intensive than video if you outsource it, and so creating a finished product is much cheaper. 

Whereas writing a text only costs a few hundred euros, you have to invest a few thousand for a professional video. Not surprisingly, because for a video you have to think about a script, camera equipment, a filming day and an edit. This simply requires more manpower and expertise. For a text, you only need one person who knows his craft.

More content for less

Let's take a look into the development and sustainability of content. Is it true that the more time you put into this, the longer it works? It could be that this one particular video generates more views, thus more value, but what if for the same money you have a number of blogs written?

Not only will you be content richer at first glance, you'll also potentially show up more often in the timeline or search results. More contact moments create more habituation, and habituation is golden. Ultimately, relationships are based on trust after all. So is that one video really better?

5. Copy articulates perfectly

While an eloquent person on camera quickly wins trust, a video also opens the doors for imperfections. In the name of "authenticity" and "unique" content, this sometimes has advantages. It can score points when someone live stumbles over his or her words here and there, because yes, nice and human. However, this always depends on the target audience, time, place, form and context. Others generally tune out when someone sprinkles an arsenal of "uhm's".

Most of the time you want to come across as professional as possible anyway. Overall, people tend to doubt or rant more in a video - which is a waste of time for everyone - than with the written word. A text offers an excellent opportunity to express everything strongly, completely and clearly. 

In doing so, it is an art to say a lot with few words. Captivating, funny and short slogans resonate better with potential customers. If you do not create a connection, there is little chance that a person will look at you a second time. Think of the activating text "Just do it!", which high probability makes only one brand pop up in your brain instantly: Nike.

Synergy is key

Basically, text and image complement each other perfectly. Copy tells a story, provides context and is picked up by search engines. Images visualize and attract attention. So it is not a question of what is 'better', text or video, but when to use what in what form. And how to combine them. As we saw with the HEINZ ad; without copy, the expression says nothing. Copy is a key component of the image.

So always look for the right harmony to get the best result and don't shove copy under the table in today's society. Copy will always provide value. Now, and in the future. Could you use some help with this? Send us a message! Nice and easy, right.

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Herwin van den Berg

Managing Director Strategy, Concepts & Content & Partner

Founder & Partner

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