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280 characters in search of an author

We all knew and loved Twitter with its famous 140-character limit. For advertisers and marketing mavens, this meant the message had to be lean and tight. Your writers had to focus on the important bits first, foremost and for the whole message. Not anymore.

Rumours of a character-limit boost from Twitter HQ became a reality last week. Your tight 140 is now a baggy 280 chars. Is this a shot across the bows for all of us working in social, for our campaigns and attempts at viral supremacy?

Well, yes, it is. For as the great poet himself said in Hamlet, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” He went on to add, in a nice bit of Shakespearean trolling:

“I will be brief, your noble son is mad.”

How brief is the question. If you ask any copywriter worth her salt, she will tell you that limitations and formats are our lifeblood. They help make the advertising world go round.

Give us the template and we will tweak it, test it and do everything we can to breathe new life into it without breaking it.  And so the art of getting a sales message, or an engaging little morsel into 140 characters has been developed and grown; like a little muscle we never thought we needed.

Some examples. Helping some of our clients at Google, we created a series of tweets that offer Life-hacks to agency workers. These are aimed at commuter time to set them up for the day:


As you can see, the actual tweet message is very concise. Just 117 characters. It gives you a taste of the message. And the beautifully designed placard finishes the meal. Another one:

Google on twitter

Our copywriter here certainly didn’t need those 280 characters to get the job done. I would argue that the limitation we used to have, actively helped her focus on writing a mini-slogan. Each tweet working as a little ad of its own.

So, I do not like this new era of 280. It has already been memed to death and discussed by all who give their words to Twitter freely. We would prefer to have a shorter, snappier message then seal the deal with an Epsilon-designed placard par excellence.

And don’t worry, we can hear your objections already. Why can’t we just stick to 140 using our own willpower (like Sting, in reverse)? Yes, we can. And why don’t we come up with some new ways to make use of the extra space?

We’ll work on that and get back to you.