Ivan Levison —
Direct Mail, E-mail and Advertising Copywriting

Nine ways to write headlines that make money.

In the June issue of Forbes magazine, Spyglass ran a full-page ad that got off to a terrible start.

Instead of using a powerful headline and graphic to pull the reader into the body copy, Spyglass squandered the space on an incomprehensible "teaser" line.

The writer of the ad could have created any of a trillion different headlines, but after careful thought and reflection bet Spyglass’s hard-earned money on:

And for your main course,
they make you chase the cow.

The visual showed someone trying to eat soup with a fork.

Sure, you could argue that the headline is so imaginative and intriguing that the reader is simply compelled to plunge into the body copy to find out what’s going on.

I say, nonsense. You can’t expect busy readers to waste time decoding a cipher. Here was Spyglass’s chance to instantly and immediately differentiate themselves from other Internet players. They could take on Netscape and make a hard-hitting case for their product line.

Instead, they approved an ad that, in my view, is self-indulgent and totally ineffective.

Yes. The headline is one of the keys to the success of your ad and you'd better have someone write you a winner!

As John Caples, the great advertising pioneer, once wrote: "If you create a good headline, your task is more than half completed. It will be a relatively easy matter to write the copy. On the other hand, if you use a poor headline, it doesn’t matter how hard you labor over your copy because your copy will not be read."

Looking for a quick guide to headlines that make money? Here are some time-tested, Caples-inspired headline approaches that get results:

    1. Begin with "Introducing" or "Announcing."

    Introducing a high-performance modem for just $49.95!

    Announcing a whole new way to edit color images!

    2. Start with "Now."

    Now the hottest spreadsheet on the market is yours at half price!

    Now you can try our brand new management tools risk free!

    3. Start with "At last" or "Finally."

    At last! A presentation graphics program with all the features you've been looking for!

    Finally, remote access that actually works!

    4. Start with "How to."

    How to back up your hard disk in half the time.

    How to slash the cost of managing your network.

    5. Start with "Why."

    Why you should call for a free Virus Alert Report.

    Why our new software can double battery life!

    6. Start with "Which."

    Which monitor is really the best buy?

    Which of these uninstallers can you trust with your precious data?

    7. Start with "This."

    This tiny chip can turn your 486 into a powerful Pentium.

    This half-price upgrade is for DataKeep customers only!

    8. Make a free offer.

    FREE! A CD-ROM with over 650 typefaces!

    Call now for free CAD software worth over $100!

    9. Ask a question.

    Are you making these five data storage mistakes?

    Want to stop software pirates once and for all?

© 2013, Ivan Levison & Associates. All rights reserved.