Nothing cranks the heat up like being asked to write an ad headline, tagline or new campaign slogan. Essentially, you’re being asked to deliver your client’s brand message in 5 words or less—and make it something that motivates people to want to read on and take action, please. Just thinking about it makes my face flush.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the challenge. But I don’t take the words of David Ogilvy, hailed as the “father of advertising,” lightly when he says: “On 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.”
Now you understand the rising blood pressure and red face. To make it easier, I follow a few rules and apply a trick or two. If my headline doesn’t fulfill at least one of these, I know my coffee break has to wait.
1. Does it make an instant impact?
The best headlines, slogans & taglines show personality. They’re clever and maybe even shock or surprise. Take the healthy, real fruit drink alternative, Bai. When launched in 2014 the ad agency went to town creating slogans that were so racy they even had articles written about them. Billboards in Time Square simply showed a picture of the bottle with the following slogan:
“Tell your taste buds to stop sexting us”
Other headlines included:
“Flavor that goes all the way on the first date,” and, “Wet. Juicy. Ready. But not in that way,” and, “Naturally sweet. Unlike most men.”
The one that survived the test of time and is on their products today, is:
“Flavor so fresh you want to slap it”.
Talk about instant impact.
2. Does it make your brain do a flip?
A great technique for writing clever headlines is to simply take a cliché and turn it on its head, or apply it to a new situation. The July 2016 issue of O Magazine has some good examples. In an article on no-cook summer recipes, they use the following subheads:
“Grain and Simple”
“Salad Swap Meet”
“Fit to a Tea”
3. Does it make you want to read on?
Not all topics are easy to promote. For example, colonoscopies can be a hard sell. A good trick here is to play on words but also get across the expertise of your client, as in:
“Our cardiologists never miss a beat”
Or you can go for shock combined with a message of “we care” as the Gastroenterology Associates of Colorado Springs recently did with:
“Up Yours, and we mean that sincerely”
Now maybe it’s your face that’s turning red.
In her spare time, Lynn enjoys reading, running, kayaking and staying young by hanging out with her teenage boys.