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One of the Sun's vilest headlines relating back to the sinking of the Belgrano – but probably one of the most (in)famous headlines ever written.

David Ogilvy on Advertising

If you only buy two books – one of them mine – the other must be this. The chap who wrote "At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce coms from the electric clock."

Who would write such a long headline today? Yet he founded Ogilvy & Mather that became the world's largest direct selling ad agency and in this book has written more wisdom than a library of books from academics.

Everest double glazing ad

Novel headline that intrigues

High performance headline

Meaningless headline: wouldn't every firm want to say that?


The headline is the most important

Us copywriters have to think in headlines when designing adverts, because five times as many people read the headline as the body copy. In other words if you don't write a captivating headline, 80% of readers will skip past, and move onto something else.

Headlines are the most arresting part of any paper. We all tend to scan the paper for a headline that is interesting, then read into the article for more facts. Surely you should adopt the same procedure for advertising. The headline must capture your specific audience, so build that interest into the words. `How to stop smoking' or `How to cure baldness' will immediately filter out all those people who don't smoke or have a full head of hair and who are of no interest to you. You are like a butterfly hunter swooping to entrap a rare specimen in your net. Interrogative or explanatory headlines are useful techniques to ensnare readers:

You must remember that ads are read for information, rarely to pass the time. Make them interesting, give information and facts. Avoid headlines that are too clever, obscure or capable of different interpretations. The best ads are not those that necessarily win awards for creative artistry but those that sell. This is after all the main, most would say the sole, function of advertising, certainly for small firms.

The best headline offers a benefit to answer my perpetual question, `What's in it for me?'

Don't be misled by quirky headlines like `Heineken reaches parts that other beers cannot reach.' That message has been repeated in thousands of TV commercials and posters over the years and bears no relation to the budgets or purpose of advertising as small firms understand it. Your ads have to state a simple benefit to an identifiable audience with a strong sales message.

Headlines with a topical flavour (news) are read and recalled by a fifth of readers, so if you are announcing a new model, improved performance or can tie it in with a local event - spell it out.

If you put your headline in quotes " " more readers will notice it. The obvious way to capitalise on this gem of research is to use an endorsement. "90 per cent of dentists recommend Colgate."