Media: A moment with Marquis

Two-and-a-half cheers to Viacom Outdoor for setting up its poster-writing competition, "Copywriting goes Underground".

Every right-minded person will applaud an initiative that rewards the art of long copy, an advertising skill that has slipped quietly out of fashion since the glory days of David Abbott's press ads for Sainsbury's.

Did they work? You bet. The evidence is all there in the IPA's effectiveness archive.

But perhaps Viacom should have sold the idea to the Newspaper Marketing Agency instead. Long copy on posters, even on Underground posters, where the so-called "dwell time" is infinitely longer than for roadside sites, is surely not the same thing as long copy in the press. Even late at night, when you can "dwell" five or ten interminable minutes before a train turns up, long copy 25 feet across the tracks on a 20-foot-by-ten-foot patch of wall is a very different sort of media contact to long copy 15 inches from your nose in a newspaper.

But let's not pour cold water on Viacom's idea. If the lure of a pile of cash, a European city break and £25,000 worth of media space gets creatives penning long-copy poster ads, that will be great. In any case, the qualifying minimum is only 50 words, which can't be beyond even the verbally challenged copywriters of today. But it will be these exceptions that prove the "less is more" rule of posters observed to such stupendous effect in, for example, the Silk Cut, The Economist and Wonderbra campaigns.

You have to wonder whether long copy, like a Conservative government, has become just one of those things that used to happen in the past. Maybe there isn't very much long copy around because the consumer can't be arsed to read it. We live in Tony's times: soundbite copy for a soundbite world.

Go to the Campaign Press Awards - most of the winners could be posters for all the words you'll see.

All the more reason, in my view, to revive the craft of leisurely, written persuasion harnessed to the cause of explaining and expounding the salient features of brand and service. You can think of plenty of products that would benefit: transport, pensions, automotive - all have stories to tell that straplines, visuals and logos alone cannot convey.

So, well done Viacom. Let's hope the competition revives a dying art.

But wouldn't it be nice to see long copy making a vigorous comeback in newspapers, magazines, direct mail and the internet, as well as on cross-track 48-sheets?