The advertising headline
Your headline is where you convey a sense of drama and urgency — preferably using positive statements. The feeling you want to instil in the reader is that he will miss something if he does not read on. Don’t waste this space by filling it with your company name and address – that’s like a signature on a letter — it comes at the end. Yet, a glance at many retail adverts reveals that advertisers consistently regard their business’s name as the most important news to readers; more often than not, it’s the opening statement of the advertisement.

Classes of headlines Three headline types or classes have proved to work best:

  • Appealing to the reader’s self-interest. Offer him something he wants, implying that reading further into the advertisement is in his best interests. “A lawn you mow once a year!” would certainly get my attention.
  • Arousing his curiosity. Ideally this should relate to the reader’s self-interest, and it’s very important to avoid headlines that provoke curiosity without serving any other purpose. This approach includes humour, but care must be taken with its use. A famous example is the advertisement placed by the American company, Beneficial Finance, which asked: “Do you have too much month left over at the end of your money?”
  • Giving news. If you have news, include it in your headline. “Just arrived …”

Guidelines for creating effective headlines

  • Don’t expect the reader to make a mental effort. Remember that his attention is yours for only a brief moment of time.
  • Don’t be too clever — it can irritate.
  • Don’t brag.
  • Headlines in classified adverts should be bold — always larger than the body type.
  • Always place your strongest benefit or appeal in the headline. Use sub-heads for the balance.
  • Avoid typography that’s too fancy, or placing the headline at a weird angle. You might get noticed, but it’s no guarantee that the advertisement will be read.
  • Don’t bury the headline somewhere in the text. It belongs at the top of the advert.
  • If a headline is good, it can be long or short.
  • Don’t set a long headline in capital letters.
  • Avoid dull statements of fact.
  • Don’t use your company name as a headline unless it in itself conveys a benefit.
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