Article by Joe Sugarman

What’s the purpose of a headline in an ad? Simply to get the person reading a magazine or newspaper or even a catalog to stop at your ad and to start reading it.

Actually, all the elements in an advertisement are designed to do one thing: Get you to start reading the ad copy. For it is in the ad copy that you really start to sell.

Think about it. If you get people to read the first sentence of your advertising and then can keep them reading through interesting copy and good solid writing, chances are you’re going to make the sale.

But if they skip by your ad, read just a few words and then turn the page to something else, you’ve totally lost them.

Keeping this in mind, what should the headline say or do to attract attention? First, I keep my headlines very short. A short headline will attract attention, be easy to read and create (hopefully) enough curiosity to cause a reader to read the subheadline. Strong words like “Free,” “Breakthrough,” “Sale,” “Secret” and maybe a dozen other words that have proven attention-getting power can be used.

Typically, a short sentence might look like: “Computer Breakthrough” or even “Internet Secret Revealed.” In each case, the headline isn’t long enough to say much except create curiosity if the reader indeed is interested in the subject of the ad.

If you are successful in stopping the reader, getting the reader to read your headline and be curious enough to read on, the subheadline is the next element you’ve got to address. A subheadline should have approximately 16 words, explain the concept or product being sold but still arouse a lot of curiosity. Telling too much in the subheadline should be avoided.

For example, “Computer Breakthrough” might have a subheadline like: “New concept in circuit design triples speed, increases memory and has mind of its own.” That last part: “a mind of its own,” would certainly make me wonder and read further. And if my copy were effective and successful, I would be well on my way to selling my prospect.

One of the good tips in writing good headlines is go to your local supermarket and pick up some of the hot tabloids or magazines that appeal to the same group you are interested in appealing to. Often the sensational headlines are tested to work using many of the hot words that will help you write your headline. And many of them can simply be modified to fit your product.

One final thought about headlines. Keep the headline type large and bold but with a type style that is easy to read. Keep your subheadline smaller, much less bold and of course easy to read. Comprehension is the key here. Too complicated a typeface or too bold and you’ll lose the reader. Plus you want the reader to transition into the text and the subheadline is like a bridge to the text.

In summary, keep your major headline short and bold so the prospect is compelled to read your subheadline. Then make the subheadline so interesting that the reader wants to find out more and read the text of the ad you’ve written. And finally, make the type easy to read.

Follow these tips and you’ll find yourself writing many strong headlines in the future.

Joe Sugarman is the man behind BluBlocker sunglasses. He’s a direct mail genius, copywriter, and author of numerous outstanding books, including:

Vol. 1: “Advertising Secrets of the Written Word”
Vol. 2: “Marketing Secrets of a Mail Order Maverick”
Vol. 3: “Television Secrets for Marketing Success”

The books are $39.95 each plus $5 shipping from 1-800-323-6400 or FAX (702) 597-2002 or write to JS&A Group, Inc., 3350 Palms Center Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89103.

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