I’ve worked in the realm of market
ing and advertising for over a year now. As you would expect, writing advertisements and other marketing pieces has caused me to notice more advertisements and pay more attention to how their various parts work together: fonts, images, headlines, body, call to action. Good ads feature attention-grabbing headline, valuable information in the body built around benefits to the consumer, and a strong call-to-action at the end.
Unlike my brother-in-law, I don’t build rockets. Good ads are simple creatures with one purpose. In his seminal work on advertising, Tested Advertising Methods, John Caples quotes John W. Blake: “There is just one justification for advertising: Sales! Sales! Sales!”
An average American sees over 3000 ads a day. We conditioned to ignoring ads.
Headlines are the most important part. If you have lousy headlines and pretty pictures, you’ve got nothing. A good headline accomplishes three objectives all at once with a handful of words:
1) Speak to the self-interest of your target audience
Example: “Save $30 a month with Comcast”
2) Promise to convey new, relevant information
Example: “Announcing: New Deals at Comcast save you $30 a month”
3) Pique curiosity
Example: “Find out how Comcast’s new deals can save you $30 a month”
Most ads fail because they try to be too clever, have obscure or boring headlines, or depend upon a persistent reader to overlook bad writing and logical disconnects.
Consider the following picture that I took with my cell phone on a subway train in Boston:
The headline reads, “Losing the American Dream? Take the first step.” Very interesting.
So what you’re telling me is that if I call MortgageHelpNow.org, then you’ll help me lose my house even faster. Where do I sign up?
Remember, someone got paid to write this garbage. The writer overlooked all three aspects of a good headline.
I love bad advertisements the way I love Steven Seagal movies. I laugh so I don’t vomit.
They both remind me why good writing matters.
If you’ve seen any heinous ads recently, I’d love to hear about them in the “Comments” section below.