Creativity Friday: Take the Best Ad Headlines and Make them Yours

Filed as Features on April 18, 2008 4:33 am

Titles and headlines work really hard. Ask any copywriter worth their salt. They need to grab the attention of the casual observer, the passerby, and the multitasker and pull it right onto the page. In a split second, your reader will decide wether to stay or go.

Give your posts the green light by leveraging the craft of brilliant headlines and advertising. Learn from some of the most persuasive and groundbreaking advertising copy, and make it yours.

“Look for it! Wait for it! See it! It is coming” P.T. Barnum

They called him the Shakespeare of advertising. When you read lines like:

“Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”

“Limited edition collector’s item at an unbelievable low special discount price”

“Going out of business, last and final liquidation closeout sale! All items must go! We’re closing our doors forever!”

You are reading pure Barnum. His style was to translate the everyday situation into a commercial via popular (or vulgar) language. It’s a skill. Words like “jumbo” are his. He single-handedly manufactured hype.

If you’re a self-promoter, Barnum blazed the trail for you. He understood one fundamental principle of advertising – and that is how important it is to gather a crowd. And he sold the exotic: the circus!

“Magic Lies in Pretty Teeth – Remove that Film” Claude Hopkins

This is the guy who understood that the goal of the advertiser is to get to the path of desire – today we call this positioning. Blame research and analytical psychology on him. One thing is for sure – he took his audience seriously.

Hopkins established the reason why you buy a product. And it has very little to do with the product itself and everything to do with what you think the product will do for you. Never compare your blog or post to that of another writer.

“People are like sheep.” he said “They cannot judge values, nor can you and I. We judge things largely by others’ impressions, by popular favor. We go with the crowd.” And indeed the most effective thing in advertising is the trend of the crowd.

How did he move people to buy? Look at that headline. Hopkins staked a claim that was obvious – you can rub just about anything on your teeth and get a sense of cleanliness. We all have a membrane on our teeth, and if you roll your tongue over them, you can feel it. That claim sold millions in Pepsodent.

“Magic lies in pretty teeth” is the precursor of “for skin you love to touch”. Akin to saying that blogging will improve your sex life. The power of magic. What magic promise is in your titles?

“How can you make two months’ salary last forever?” N. W. Ayer

I bet you know what this ad headline is selling. How would you like to write a title like that? This was the brilliant campaign started by Ayer for De Beers. The ads did their job. they intercepted and reformatted desire.

And they did not talk specifics. They just went directly to how the product would make the person it is bought for feel. Now take a look at your headline, how can you make it timeless, aspirational, and still keep it simple?
“A diamond last forever” – will your headline?

“Does she… or doesn’t she?” Foote, Cone & Belding

Maybe she’s born with it… maybe it’s marketing. Two generations, same kind of attraction. Instilling the doubt as in the famous Miss Clairol’s campaign is an old technique. It dates back to the ‘50s. If you think this is sort of cheesy, remember that the campaign propelled sales 413% higher in six years.

The secret lies in not revealing everything with the headline. In fact, if you look at the examples I listed here, they all contain powerful hooks that will prompt you to consider the product.

What kinds of headlines light you up? Have some fun and share your best headlines. Better yet, let’s craft some here together using this material as inspiration. For a limited time only! Come on in and let’s do some marketing magic.

Tags: , ,

This post was written by

You can visit the for a short bio, more posts, and other information about the author.


Submissions & Subscriptions

Submit the post to Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg or Del.icio.us.

Did you like it? Then subscribe to our RSS feed!



  1. By Shane posted on April 18, 2008 at 6:11 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    And the headline is….”Getting Read…It’s all about the headline” – It’s bad but better that the first thing that came to my head which was “Title me Rich”

    Great article Valeria, and very hard to do – if you are too coy then no-one gets it and too specific then it’s boring.

    Reply

  2. By John Johansen posted on April 18, 2008 at 6:16 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Writing headlines is extremely tough but also one of my favorite parts of writing. It’s an area that you can be extremely creative but you do want to pass along an idea more than content.

    Some of my favorite headlines from my blog are:

    We’re Number 1%

    Engagement = Ingagement + Outgagement

    I’m a Marketer, Pay Attention to Me

    Reply

  3. By Steve Woodruff posted on April 18, 2008 at 6:32 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    OK, how about this:

    Social Media – Your Keyboard to the World

    Reply

  4. By Valeria Maltoni posted on April 18, 2008 at 7:09 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Thank you, Shane. The simpler, the better is one rule of thumb. Heady headlines make your head spin ;-) Other ideas are using active verbs. Painting a picture with economy of words. For example: “Blogger Fired: Headlines Pop!”

    You can tell a good title because it makes for a great quote, too. Keep them coming!

    Reply

  5. By Valeria Maltoni posted on April 18, 2008 at 1:27 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    @John – the comments are showing up only now and here I am! “We’re Number 1%” is unexpected, a draw. In fact, all the ones you list are.

    @Steve – original, building on “your window to the world”. Hey, now this sounds like a Microsoft ad ;-)

    Reply

  6. By Bob Younce at the Writing Journey posted on April 22, 2008 at 1:32 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Great article, Valeria. I’ve always struggled with headlines, so this is especially useful to me.

    Good form! I’ve stumbled you.

    Reply

  7. By Valeria Maltoni posted on April 22, 2008 at 7:56 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Thank you, Bob. Glad you enjoyed it. The headline can be a stumbling block in two ways: you get inspired and write a great one, then you have no idea how to follow in the post (this is rare). Or, you have a great post, and have no idea how to get people there to read it through a compelling headline that represents the content.

    You have a nice design template at Writing Journey. Nice and open. I can tell you put thought into your work.

    Reply

  8. By Avril Lavigne posted on July 14, 2009 at 5:50 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    It’s an area that you can be extremely creative but you do want to pass along an idea more than content.
    Teeth Whitening Procedure

    Reply

  9. By Minty posted on November 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Very helpful, I am always struggling for a good headline, not sure if writing is really for me but we shall see latest effort is at professional teeth whitening

    Reply

  10. By copywriting posted on February 7, 2010 at 6:58 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    I found your blog from google and read a few of your other posts. They are incredible. Please keep it up… have a nice day.

    Reply

  11. By Panic Attacks posted on May 17, 2010 at 7:42 am
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Great article Valeria. Now I’m going to put some of these ideas into action when I start my next ads.

    Reply

  12. By Baby Girl posted on November 9, 2010 at 2:06 pm
    Want an avatar? Get a gravatar! • You can link to this comment

    Personally I always right my headlines using the proven “How to” format which has never failed me. Give it a try.

    Reply

    Your words are your own, so be nice and helpful if you can. If this is the first time you're posting a comment, it might go into moderation. Don't worry, it's not lost, so there's no need to repost it! We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it please.

    Current day month ye@r *