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In/direct advantage

10 October 2014

Killer headlines are an essential part of your ads (Stop! Read this!). So at some point you might want to have a go at writing one.

But how do you go about writing advertising headlines that stand out, deliver your message and are more persuasive than Derren Brown with chocolates?

The good news is you can use virtually any technique you like. If it stands out on the page, offers something irresistible and gets your ad read, then whether it’s 50% off glasses or I’m having sex tonight… it’s doing its job.

The even better news, though, is there are some tried and tested methods. So if you’re short of the time or inspiration this week for anything avant-garde then here’s a few tricks of the trade.

First, decide which type of headline fits best with what you’re advertising. If your sales message is strong and to the point (Debenhams 30% SALE; NEW Mint KitKat), then it’ll pay to state the product or offer directly. This can take the form of the offer itself, news you might have to announce, a testimonial or statistics, for example.

Alternatively, if there’s more going on and you need your body copy to do the selling, your headline should draw the reader into it (10 Steps to Younger Skin; Want a greener lawn?). Whether you do this by asking a question, creating some intrigue or offering tips and advice, make sure you get your reader really interested and then deliver on what they’re looking for in the body.

Whichever technique you use, though, make sure it’s engaging, clear and offers a strong benefit or reward for reading.

As an example, let’s look at an advert for the shopping outlet Springfields. The ad essentially consists of a blonde model posing with a tiny VIP card over her shoulder. A bold pink headline asks Have you got yours yet? before the sub-head expands with The Springfields VIP card available now.

In some ways this headline works. You’re suddenly aware that there’s something to be had and you can have one! To find out what it is, you’ll need to keep reading. This is a classic example of an indirect headline, designed to lead the reader into the rest of the copy.

But how effective is the advert?

The first major problem is the headline itself. It’s unduly vague and the only reason you’d read past it is if you cared enough to find out what you’re being teased with. Have you got yours yet? offers nothing specific in terms of interest or promise of reward.

The second obvious flaw is the complete lack of clear information to back up the initial interest. Other than knowing there’s a VIP card available, neither the headline nor the body copy does anything to state the benefits of having one (unless you count the Extra Savings in over 40 stores in tiny print at the foot of the ad). If you’re using a headline to keep your customer reading, give them something to read!

The advert could easily be made more effective.

If you take the time to trawl through the advertiser’s website, you’ll eventually discover the card offers ten per cent discount in stores, exclusive offers and special events.

A more engaging advert might read:

HEADLINE – Still paying full price at Springfields?

BODY – Get your Springfields VIP card today. 10% discount in stores; exclusive offers; special events.

This works basically on the same principal but arouses more specific interest, as well as including some additional information as a reward for reading on. For an ad to be successful it needs to be convincing, and clever word-play alone probably won’t be enough.

An alternative approach would be to cut out the games altogether. A more straightforward, direct headline such as Make every day the sales at Springfields or even more simply 10% off at Springfields – every day! would sacrifice a bit of glamour for a potentially stronger sales message.

Remember, whichever type of headline you decide to use – whether direct or indirect – finding the right balance between attracting readers and providing enough information is, in most cases, vital.


Posted by Rob.

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Spoon Media, Cleatham, Kirton Lindsey, Nr Gainsborough, North Lincolnshire DN21 4JN
X Walter's Lincolnshire


Company profile

With Walter’s you’re right at home. Spoon Media’s theme for Lincoln estate agent Walter’s immediately lets you know you’re dealing with a company you can trust – in this case the longest-established estate agent in Lincoln.

Project information

When you’re working with a successful brand that’s been around for longer than two centuries, you can’t take any chances. Which was why Spoon Media’s gentle rebranding and carefully tweaked logo were the perfect counterbalance to an all-new, ultra-clean website with full content management, SEO copywriting and property search facilities incorporating bespoke MySQL databases. Needless to say, Walter’s new customers came very quickly indeed.

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Quest-eeze is a one-stop country store, animal feed retailer and online equestrian shop. Based in Lincolnshire, Quest-eeze supplies everything for the pet owner, horse rider and farmer on a local or national level.

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Spoon Media loves animals even more than our Apple Mac computers, so Quest-eeze was a natural business partner. Picking up a part-started website and semi-established brand allowed us to make our own little mark on Lincolnshire’s loveliest pet shop, extending to a complete online shop with secure payments and delivery database.

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