Does Your Ad Measure Up?
by Hallie Mummert
ONE OF THE biggest names in mail order started their empires with nothing more than a little, black and white space ad in a magazine. Banana Republic, Lands' End and The J. Peterman Co. all looked to direct response advertising to test the appeal of their products. While their first ads were a bit less complex than the voluminous catalogs these companies mail today, the offers and copy were just as finely crafted.
So, too, should be the ads you run, whether they be tests or rolled-out programs. Just as there are numerous considerations in a direct mail campaign, you'll find more than a few elements of a successful direct response ad to keep in mind. One crucial element, the headline, merits great attention as it sets the stage for the rest of the ad—text and artwork.
Assembled on these pages are a handful of ideas on headlines from the experts in creating winning space ads. While just a starting point in evaluating headlines, these tips should help you take a more critical look at the ads you run and their ability to reach your prospective audience.
Does your headline select an interested audience and promise the prospect a worthwhile reward for reading further? —Vic Schwab
Does the headline tune in the most latent daydream of the reader? —Tom Collins
Does your headline offer a benefit (i.e., what's in it for me now)? —Axel Andersson
If you use a question headline, does it have a genuine "bite," a thought-provoking quality?
Is your headline a provocation to read the subhead and the first paragraph of body copy?
Could you use an exhortative command headline, the most commonly used and effective headline in direct marketing?
Could your ad or offer/proposition use a "how" or "how-to" headline? People buy products and services to improve the quality of their lives; if you show them "how" they can solve their problems, you stand a better chance of getting their order.
Do not put the headline at the top, followed by a main illustration and finished with body copy beneath both elements with no subhead to pull readers' eyes into the text.
Long headlines should not be broken up by illustrations. Keep the headline together.
Any good headline should talk to one reader, not to a mass audience. —Axel Andersson
Your headline may change depending on the medium in which the ad is placed. Readers of a cooking magazine will most likely respond to different benefits than readers of a business newspaper.
The wickedest of all sins is to run an advertisement without a headline. —David Ogilvy
The headline should be horizontal, not vertical, not slanting. —Bill Jayme
In creating strong headlines, four appeals offer the most effect on response: self-interest, news, curiosity and quick, easy way. The ad shown above, at middle right, has a few things going for it, one of which is the promise of a "quick, easy way" to gain a competitive advantage.
Consider testing an obvious benefit headline ("Lose 10 pounds in 1 month") versus a hidden benefit headline ("Never be a wallflower again"). —Ted Nicholas
Try putting appropriate headlines in quotes, as studies show that 28 percent more attention is given to headlines in quotes.
Never use more than 17 words.
Use upper- and lower-case letters, not all caps, to increase readability. —Ted Nicholas
Avoid using reverse type in headlines as it is more difficult to read. —Ted Nicholas