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Creating Adverts that Sell: The Headline

Steve Indersmith

The right advert headline can improve your results by 1000%.

Advert design is critical to the success of your campaign, yet all too often we are supplied adverts that we just know will not work. How do we know this?

Sometimes it's because of our experience and knowledge in the local market and for a particular industry, more often than not it's because the strategy or the design elements to the advert are incomplete or missing.

If you are keen to ensure your advertising dollar has the best chance of working then read on, we'll lead you through the tricks of the trade and give you some example headlines that have been judged to be the best of the best.

10 elements for creating an advert that sells

1) Headline
2) Image
3) Points of difference, features and benefits
4) Design, ability to stand out
5) Copy, long, short, language
6) Testimonials
7) Expert comments
8) Making purchase risk free
9) Creating a sense of urgency
10) Call to action

The tools above are designed to grab attention, create a need or want, build trust and confidence and generate a timely action. Much of what we espouse comes from advertising legend and author David Ogilvy, one of the most influential ad men over the past 50 years and reportedly the inspiration for the popular series Mad Men.

The Headline – the most important part of your advert

The headline is often said to be the most important part of an advert. It is what grabs the reader's attention, what has them continue beyond to read the advert.

Consider what you do when you pick up Peninsula Living or North Shore Living. You scan the page and you make a decision to read an article based on the headline, the sub heading and the image. The same can be said with an advert. Readers scan the advert headline and make a decision as to whether they continue or turn the page.

If I don’t know what you do after 3 seconds your advert fails!

Apply the three second rule, that's all you get three seconds to view an advert and decide whether it's for you or not. In three seconds your advert needs to communicate what you do (in broad terms) and engage me!

A word from the Guru:
"On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar." David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising.

A good headline makes the reader want to find out more.

There are three main types of headline:

Self benefit
The best headlines (by a long way) are those that appeal to the reader's self-interest. Headlines based on "reader benefits" offer the reader something they want, it may be a dollar savings, time, exclusivity, self-esteem, peace of mind.
1. Who will you trust your next kitchen to?
2. Our Best rates guaranteed
3. Now You Can Look Glamorous Day and Night
4. January Sale
5. Save 50 per cent this winter
6. Drop a dress size in just three weeks

News style headlines inform or educate the reader about a product, service or need.
1. Breakthrough No More Snoring Laser Treatment
2. To Extract or Not to Extract?
3. Awarded Best Seafood Restaurant in Sydney!
4. ALL New Mercedes-Benz SUV to hit the market
5. 5 Ways to look and feel younger
6. The science behind boys learning.

Curiosity style headlines spark an interest, they engage, they have me want to find out more.
1. Take control of your heart health
2. What are Your Missing Teeth Costing You
3. The Home Loan that gives something back
4. Retire ten years early - find out how
5. Don't mention it's healthy for them
6. Keep your children safe from germs

The headline is so important to the result of your advert. Often the headline can be a mix of self-benefit, news or curiosity.

Brainstorm some headlines. Write out ten and then test them on colleagues and friends. Don't be afraid of trialling different headlines - just changing the headline can make a massive difference. Get the headline right and you are half way to creating an advert that sells.

As promised, here's a very interesting article: The Best Selling Headlines of David Ogilvy

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