Denny’s Daily Zinger: A DED HED

HP buries the "hed." Click to enlarge.

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

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • Tim Orr

    One fifth of a million dollars for one ad on one page in one paper on one day! So many things wrong here, not least with the tiny illustration (It says “full size,” but we know better). Can’t read the “true” hed at all. Ironically, this is almost one of those things where the logo at the bottom becomes the hed. I might actually read a few lines based on the fact that the message comes from HP. Trouble is, it’s about two heds and subheds and three sentences before I ever find out what HP wants me to know. And at that, it’s the very weak claim, “We can help.”

  • Robert Bly

    It is exactly the kind of ad I would expect from a clueless Fortune 500 marcom middle manager.

  • Mike Saxon

    Clarity always trumps creativity (not that this ad is the least bit creative). I wonder if a copywriter was even involved in creating this ad. And if there was, I’m guessing he or she was browbeat into doing what the client wanted.