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Ad Headlines from Hell

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Posted 2nd June 2009 at 03:34 PM by megaresp

An ad's headline is arguably the single most important part of the ad. It's job is to...
  • Get their attention
  • Make them want to read the ad
If the headline isn't doing its job, nobody is going to read the rest of the ad copy. End result? No leads, no sales, no point.

Get their Attention:

This first part of an ad headline's job is easily understood. I suspect this is why most people go all out on getting noticed, and overlook the second part of an ad headline's job. Over the years, I've seen all sorts of crazy gimmicks designed to get people to notice an ad. For example...
  • Don't read this ad
I hope that whoever dreamed up this idiocy wasn't getting paid to write copy. This headline may get their attention, but it won't make them read the ad (quite the reverse). And no, it doesn't get them through curiosity. It's an ad. Nobody cares.

Here's another ad headline from Hell...
  • My Wallet Gets Fat. What?
Yes, really. This incomprehensible drivel makes no sense what-so-ever. I have no idea what the writer was thinking, or why they imagined this would work. As it appeared on an ad site I owned, I happen to know it received no clicks at all. Hardly surprising.

Make Them Want to Read:

The headline has to make a person want to read the ad. It won't work if it does nothing but attempts to call attention to itself, without also providing a reason to read further. Consider these 2 examples...
  • Free Sex! Now that I've got your attention...
  • Brand X Clothing Half Price - Today Only. Here's how...
The first example is likely to catch your eye. The subconscious mind is predisposed to notice a word like sex, and force your conscious mind to focus on the ad. The problem lies with what happens next. Instead of free sex, what we end up with is some crummy ad. How disappointing. In less than a second, our eyes and mind has moved elsewhere.

The second headline will likewise get noticed by the subconscious mind of anyone interested in Brand X clothing. The subconscious tells the conscious mind to pay attention, and focus shifts to the ad (in less than a second). What's different in this second example, is the headline not only explains the offer in a 4 word summary (half price today only), it flows naturally into the explanation.

If you want brand X clothes at half price, you're going have to read that ad. And you're going to do so immediately, because there's a tight deadline on the deal.
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  1. New Comment
    Totally agree, a very well written article, and a site I will be coming back to.
    Best Wishes, Eric
    Posted 2nd June 2009 at 03:38 PM by ericmortimer ericmortimer is offline
  2. New Comment
    Getting attention only works if it matches the content inside; there can be no incongruence with any of the copy. It needs to grab attention ABOUT the problem/solution, and speak to the heart of the buyer in a way that immediately shows you understand them, so that the trust factor is built in from the very first lines (which are the headline.)

    If you then lead them further into compelling copy/story/slippery slope towards the buy button, you have a winner.

    If you can't do this, don't bother with the gimmicks. The subconscious is more powerful than you think, and more unforgiving if you get it wrong.
    Posted 3rd June 2009 at 03:12 PM by Bright Wings Bright Wings is offline
  3. New Comment
    megaresp's Avatar
    Originally Posted by Bright Wings View Comment
    Getting attention only works if it matches the content inside
    Yes, excellent point.
    Posted 23rd July 2009 at 07:22 AM by megaresp megaresp is offline

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