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Denny's Daily Zinger: A DED HED

July 23, 2014 By Denny Hatch
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Newspaper journalists always spell "lead" as "lede."

In their argot, a "headline" is a "hed."

What triggered this column was Hewlett-Packard's full-page advertisement in The New York Times of July 18, 2014, costing $194,166.00.

(See the illustration in the media player at upper right. This design took up roughly 1/3 the full page—small and surrounded by lots of white space.)

"The wickedest of all sins is to run an advertisement with no headline," write David Ogilvy.

Looking at the ad, the nominal hed is:

The future
is un certain

A fat strike-through bar covers the "un," calling attention to the "un" and diminishing the power of "certain."

This so-called hed violates the rules.

"Avoid the 'hard-to-grasp' headline," wrote copywriting legend John Caples, "the headline that requires thought and is not clear at first glance."

"The headline selects the reader," wrote Axel Andersson.

Who is HP talking to and what's the point?

The teeny blue bar at the top of the ad with reversed-out white mouse-type—readable only with a magnifying glass—is the true hed:

An open conversation about shifts in the x86 server market.  

So the ad is directed at professionals with a stake in the x86 server market (whatever that is).

This should be the main headline and set in 80-point type.

My opinion: The arty smartypants designer just threw $194,166.00 down the sewer. And the jerkwater account executive did not know any better.

"God protect us from amateurs!" cried Henry Castor, my boss many years ago.

Denny Hatch's new book is "Write Everything Right!" Wesley "The Marketing Manic" Murph writes, "I was just dropping you a line to let you know that I totally "dig" your new book. I haven't gotten through it all. But what I have read, I love. In particular, I really enjoy your style. You call a spade a spade. And what's cool is nine times out of ten you're dead on the money. Keep up the great work!" Click here to download (opens as a PDF) and read the first three chapters FREE. The title is also available on Kindle. Reach Denny at


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