10 Nov

Lessons from Towering Inferno

My good lady and I have come to an agreement: I’ll wade through all of the 1970s disaster movies she loves, if she watches the old Pink Panther films, Fawlty Towers, and a few Marty Feldman clips. It’s a deal – we’ve shaken on it.

So, it comes to Sunday night, we’re getting ready for the week ahead, and she announces that we’ll be watching one her favourites: Towering Inferno.

We decide this at 9.30pm, but (I didn’t look at the running time) I didn’t expect the film to last more than two hours, so reckoned on getting some sleep from 11.30ish onwards, which was fine.

Come 11.30, the film is still running, it seems a little way from its conclusion, and I check the running time… there are still 45 minutes to go. This means that the film runs for a grand total of 2 hours and 45 minutes. 

I should explain, I have a little rule: for any film to run longer than two hours, it really has to justify itself to me – it has to be an absolute corker (Heat is a good example of this: nearly three hours long, but a fantastic film). If it’s longer than two hours, but it drags, that irritates me – I feel that it’s long for the sake of being long.

As it so happens, Towering Inferno kept my interest. The only reason I became consciously aware of how long it was, is because I was trying to go to bed early(ish). Prior to that point (and afterwards), I was enjoying it: it had that old school, hammy, 1970s disaster movie charm. In the end, I went to bed at 12.20am and woke up feeling slightly tired.

And the point to all of this? Think of your content in these terms (or any lengthy piece of marketing you’re punting out there: a DM piece, a marketing brochure, a press ad): anything over a certain length has to be absolutely brilliant, or people will just lose interest in it.
Homepage copy really has to justify itself if it’s longer than 200 words. An ‘About’ page really has to justify itself if it’s longer than 300 words. The last thing you want is for your audience to get bored halfway through reading your copy/content – they might miss a vital message that you stuck right at the end.

But… if your copy/content is well written, engaging, and charming, then it may well be read, regardless of the length: if your audience is engaged with what they’re reading, they’ll forgive the length – they may not even notice it.

Remember: it’s not about what you, as a business, want to say (how many messages you want to squeeze in, what you love about your company, irrelevant technical specs), it’s about what your audience want to read – what’s essential information in helping them to choose whether to buy from/work with you.

So, shorten your content/copy, or make it bloomin’ brilliant, or – ideal scenario – do both.

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