Writing Attention-Getting Advertising Headlines
September 7, 2009
In his book, Confessions of an Advertising Man, noted ad expert David Ogilvy wrote, “The headline is the most important element in most advertisements.” To get the most out of your advertising dollars, you must make sure you give extra special attention to your headline.
With so many ads out there, people will just scan the headlines. “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy,” stated Ogilvy. So your headline needs to be as good as you can make it to attract the consumer and draw them into your ad.
Catching the eye of your prospect is the aim of the headline. You need to grab their interest immediately. “People are more likely to read your body copy if your headline arouses their curiosity,” said Ogilvy. So be sure to put your main benefit in your headline. Don’t hide it in the body copy.
How do you grab the consumer’s interest? As Ogilvy remarked, “Every headline should appeal to the reader’s self-interest.” Consumers want to know: “What’s in it for me?” What is the specific benefit to your potential customers? How is this going to help them? They don’t really care if you’re the largest HVAC contracting company in town. That is not a benefit to the consumer. They don’t really care if you’ve been in business for 100 years. That, again, is not a direct benefit to the consumer. You need to tell them the advantage you provide and how it’s going to help them.
EXAMPLES OF ATTENTION-GETTING HEADLINESOne of the best ways to write a powerful, high-impact headline is to use a “how to” headline. A “how to” headline will explain how you can solve a problem for the consumer or how you can provide a benefit that’s important to them: “Attention Asthma Sufferers: How to Get Cleaner Indoor Air” or “How to Get Efficient A/C and Keep More Money in Your Pocket.”
Another headline type that works well is asking a question and providing the answer: “Hate to Waste Energy? Here’s How to Save!”
You can also attract readers by highlighting the things they’d like to avoid: “Avoid High Energy Bills” or “Avoid Indoor Air Quality Problems.”
You can also write a headline that simply and precisely explains why your company is better than the competition: “Five Reasons Why People Prefer ABC Heating & Cooling.” The copy that follows would then provide five numbered items - the top five reasons that your customers have told you why they buy from you. (Naturally this will require that you regularly collect customer feedback and know why your customers are buying from you.)
Your headline can also grab attention with a twist, a statement that the reader wouldn’t expect from any HVAC contractor: “Dump Your A/C Unit and Save Money!” The ad’s copy would then go on to explain that by dumping their old a/c unit and buying a new 16-SEER split system from you, the consumer will gain long-term energy savings and qualify for up to a $1,500 federal tax credit (and if applicable, a rebate from the local utility).
And, finally, a caveat: Don’t try to use puns or humor in your headline. People may not have your sense of humor, they might not get it, and they likely aren’t going to take the time to try to figure out what you are getting at. It will be a waste of time and money. A straightforward approach in your headline, emphasizing the benefit that you offer, is the best approach.
Before joining the editorial staff of The NEWS over 12 years ago, Greg Mazurkiewicz worked in public relations and advertising for more than 20 years. In this periodic series of articles, he will share some of his expertise in the field of marketing communications.
Publication date: 09/07/2009