Great Headlines make GREAT ads

August 9, 2007

The following was taken from Ogilvy on Advertising, a book I highly recommend to everyone in the profession:

The shortage of print know-how presents a serious problem to cigarette manufacturers and others who are not allowed to use television. It also presents a golden opportunity for copywriters and art directors who take the trouble to acquire the know-how.

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On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you [the advertiser] have wasted 90 percent of your money.

The headlines which work best are those which promise the reader a benefit – like whiter wash, more miles per gallon, freedom from pimples, fewer cavities. Riffle through a magazine and count the number of ads whose headlines promise a benefit of any kind.

‘News’ headlines are ‘sure-fire’ winners

Headlines which contain ‘news’ are sure-fire. The news can be the announcement of a new product, an improvement in an old product, or a new way to use an old product – like serving Campbell’s Soup on the rocks. On the average, ads with news are recalled by 22 per cent more people than ads without news.

If you are lucky enough to have some news to tell, don’t bury it in your body copy, which nine out of ten people will not read. State it loud and clear in your headline. And don’t scorn tried-and-true words like ‘amazing, introducing, now, suddenly’.

Headlines that offer the reader helpful information, like HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE, attract above average readership.

Include a Brand Name in your headline

I advise you to include the brand name in your headline. If you don’t, 80 per cent of readers (who don’t read your body copy) will never know what product you are advertising. If you are advertising a kind of product that is only bought by a small group of people, put a word in your headline which will flag them down, like ‘asthma, bedwetters, women over thirty-five’.

Starch [Starch Readership Service] reports that headlines with more than ten words get less readership than short headlines. On the other hand, a study of retail advertisements found that headlines of ten words sell more merchandise than short headlines. Conclusion: if you need a long headline, go ahead and write one, and if you want a short headline, that’s all right too. The famous headline ‘Lemon’ contributed a lot to the success of Volkswagen in the United States.

Be specific…

Specifics work better than generalities. When research reported that the average shopper thought Sears Roebuck made an average profit of 37 per cent on sales, I headlined an advertisement ‘Sears makes a profit of 5 per cent’. This specific was more persuasive than saying that ‘Sears’ profit was less than you might suppose’, or something equally vague.

When you put your headline in quotes, you increase recall by an average of 28 per cent.

When you advertise in newspapers, you get better results if you include the name of each city in your headline. People are most interested in what is happening where they live.

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Tricky headlines are a no no

Some copywriters write tricky headlines – double meanings, puns and other obscurities. This is counter-productive. In the average newspaper your headline has to compete with 350 others. Readers travel fast through this jungle. Your headline should telegraph what you want to say.

Some headlines are blind. They don’t say what the product is, or what it will do for you. They are about 20 per cent below average in recall.

Some headlines, more than anything else, decide the success or failure of an advertisement, the silliest thing of all is to run an ad without any headline at all –‘ a headless wonder.’
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Even though this book was written in 1983, it is a classic and is well worth adding to your library. Ogilvy knows what he is talking about. See, what is arguably called the best print ad of all time, his classic Rolls Royce advertisement here.


Brazilian Suicide Awareness ads – Modern Day

July 22, 2007

This is a recent ‘gimmick’ ad that has a very subtle, but powerful visual message. It’s hard to see in the pix, but the written message is ‘Help yourself’, and the interesting thing is that the cutout characters that are falling are being rescued by the outline they were cut from. ‘Help yourself’. Very strong.
I give it

They must have a serious suicide problem in Brazil to post these adverts on the streets of San Paulo. I’d be interested to know how successful they are.

Campaign by Leo Burnett in Sau Paulo, for CVV Suicide Prevention Center in Brazil, via designboom.


Perhaps the best print ad of all time…from 1963

July 22, 2007

Here is the classic automotive ad of all time. It was by David Ogilvy in his signature style showing one giant image dominating the top of the page and lots of ad copy below. Still regarded 45 years later as the best print ad ever created for an automobile, it is perhaps, the best print ad ever. I give it my highest rating of

The heading was superb and the sub-head led the reader into the first of 13 features each quickly followed, for the most part, by a short explanation of the benefit of that feature. Ogilvy said that he spent three weeks reading about the car when he came across a statement in the technical data that read “at sixty miles an hour, the loudest noise comes from the electric clock.” That became the headline followed by 607 words of factual copy. And a star was born.

I’ll take mine with the espresso machine and the bed (feature no. 11).


LA Law Firm Ad – Modern Day

July 22, 2007

Here’s a very simple newsprint ad I did a few years ago for an LA law firm. The use of the word ‘Injured’ targeted the ad and the word FREE in all caps grabbed the reader and pulled him in. Because most attorneys work on a contingency basis I chose that as the basis for my ad and made it seem unique to this Law Firm. Brief and to the point.

An extremely simple, but highly effective 1/4 page ad.


Pepsi Commercial – Godfather Girl

July 22, 2007

This is a wonderful Pepsi ad, but I drink Coke and this commercial would not have swayed me in the least. It’s highly creative none the less. Fun to watch and it does get it’s point across, but then it threw me at the very end with the generic Joy of Cola slogan. What’s with that? Why not the Joy of Pepsi? Completely blew it for me.

So I give it a for effectiveness, but a for creativity.

What do you think?


Automotive Ad – 2004

July 22, 2007

Here’s a seasonal automotive ad for J&J Automotive produced by McGaffic Advertising and Marketing. As automotive ads go, it’s a good one with a catchy headline. With the huge amount of automotive ads in the newspapers it’s hard to stand out. I think this one did…

My only critique is that the J & J logo is difficult to understand.


Greyhound ad – 1953

July 22, 2007

Greyhound put out this ad in 1953. Three things made it an effective ad…

  1. The use of a celebrity, Ralph Edwards, gave the ad credibility and using his photo got the attention of those who watched his TV program.
  2. The headline grabbed attention…and the copy followed through.
  3. The slogan (which seems to have changed through the years)”a lot more travel, for a lot less money” was effective in showing the benefit of traveling Greyhound.

Good ad. ↑↑


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