The Truth About Advertising #2: It’s All About The Headline, Really!

By Angelika Ilina

As a follow up to the Coca-Cola wannabes that produce ineffective “brand awareness” ads that feature the company name as the most prominent element, here is an ad that I’ve seen in the Boulder Daily Camera for many months now: a store that sells beads.

It’s a small and simple ad — nothing fancy, no striking illustrations, but it does a much better job because it tells you exactly what it offers right in the headline: beads!

The headline element is huge compared to the rest of the copy in the ad, and it is precisely what catches your eye. In a matter of seconds you decide whether the ad is for you or not. If you’re interested in beads, you’ll stop and read the rest of the copy. If you’re not, you’ll glaze right over it.

The beauty in this simplicity is that you don’t have to think too much. The ad isn’t asking you to figure out what some clever headline such as “Spring Break 1997 Double Dare?” means (an ad for a tattoo removal place). Their subhead “Regretting that tattoo you got?” would serve better as the headline.

Or a meaningless headline such as “Rule 1: Never give anything away. Rule 2: Never follow Rule 1.” means (an ad for the Advantage Bank). I still don’t know what they meant by it or what they were trying to promote. A more effective headline that appears in the same newspaper is in an Elevations Credit Union ad: “We have money to lend you!” It appeals to a reader’s self-interest and it’s timely.

Which brings us to the fact that the most important part of an advertisement is the headline. The success or failure of your advertisement campaign may depend entirely on the headlines used in individual advertisements because if the headline doesn’t grab the reader, she won’t read the rest of the copy. And the most effective headlines are the ones that appeal to the reader’s self-interest, but more on that in the next post. In the meantime, happy headline writing!


4 Responses to The Truth About Advertising #2: It’s All About The Headline, Really!

  1. Sometimes internet marketer thinks that visitors get attracted to the web and the products just because the webmaster is qualified enough to draw people, but that is not the thing. Visitors only get attracted to the products that will benefit them in any way.

  2. Jeff,

    You bring a good point. In addition, webmasters typically don’t have a sales/marketing background to recommend the proper elements and content to have on a web site, such as product benefits. I’ll be addressing these issues in my next post.

  3. CK Ang says:

    You mentioned “Which brings us to the fact that the most important part of an advertisement is the headline.” To me, it is more about what sort of reaction you want the reader or viewer to do after watching it or reading it? For example, in my part of the world, some companies are using colour and font to capture attention and association to certain outcomes that customers are familiar with.

  4. CK,

    Sure, ultimately you want a reaction from readers to drive certain outcomes. You could use colors and fonts to make the ad noticeable, however, the next step is for a reader to read the headline. If the headline is not used, or not powerful, chances are the reader won’t continue to read the rest of the copy.

    Think of it as browsing a newspaper. Readers scan headlines of various articles and only stop to read the articles whose headlines caught their attention. And even if they didn’t stop to read the article, the headline told them in short what the article was about. Same with ads. A powerful headline should be noticeable and tell you what the ad is about. If it’s something you’re interested in, you’ll stop and read the rest of it, then, hopefully take an action.

    Thanks for the comment!

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