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Advertising Headlines

 

Chapter Five

Headlines

   
     The difference between advertising and personal salesmanship 
lies largely in personal contact.  The salesman is there to demand 
attention.  He cannot be ignored.  The advertisement can be ignored.
     
     But the salesman wastes much of his time on prospects whom he 
can never hope to interest.  He cannot pick them out.  The 
advertisement is read only by interested people who, by their own 
volition, study what we have to say.
     
     The purpose of headline is to pick out people you can 
interest.  You wish to talk to someone in a crowd.  So the first 
thing you say is, "Hey there, Bill Jones" to get the right persons 
attention.
     
     So in an advertisement.  What you have will interest certain 
people only, and for certain reasons.  You care only for those 
people.  Then create a headline which will hail those people only.
     
     Perhaps a blind headline or some clever conceit will attract 
many times as many.  But they may consist of mostly impossible 
subjects for what you have to offer.  And the people you are after 
may never realize that the ad refers to something they may want.
     
     Headlines on ads are like headlines on news items.  Nobody 
reads a whole newspaper.  One is interested in financial news, one 
in political, one in society, one in cookery, one in sports, etc.  
There are whole pages in any newspaper which we may never scan at 
all.  Yet other people might turn directly to those pages.

     We pick out what we wish to read by headlines, and we don't 
want those headlines misleading.  The writing of headlines is one 
of the greatest journalistic arts.  They either conceal or reveal 
an interest.
     
     Suppose  a newspaper article stated that a certain woman was 
the most beautiful in the city.  That article would be of intense 
interest to that woman and her friends.  But neither she nor her 
friends would ever read it if the headline was "Egyptian Psychology."
     
     So in advertising.  It is commonly said that people do not 
read advertisements.  That is silly, of course.  We who spend 
millions in advertising and watch the returns marvel at the readers 
we get.  Again and again we see 20 per cent of all the readers of 
a newspaper cut out a certain coupon.
     
     But people do not read ads for amusement.  They don't read ads 
which, at a glance, seem to offer nothing interesting.  A 
double-page ad on a women's dresses will not gain a glance from a 
man.  Nor will shaving cream ad from a woman.
     
     Always bear these facts in mind.  People are hurried.  The 
average person worth cultivating has too much to read.  They skip 
three-fourths of the reading matter which they pay to get.  They 
are not going to read your business talk unless you makee it worth 
their while and let the headline show it.
     
     People will not be bored in print.  They may listen politely 
at a dinner table to boasts and personalities, life history, etc.  
But in print they choose their own companions, their own subjects.  
They want to be amused or benefited.  They want economy, beauty, 
labor saving, good things to eat and wear.  There may be products 
which interest them more than anything else in the magazine.  But 
they will never know it unless the headline or picture tells them.
     
     The writer of this chapter spends far more time on headlines 
that on writing, He often spends hours on a single headline.  Often 
scores of headlines are discarded before the right one is 
selected.  For the entire return from an ad depends on attracting 
the right sort of readers.  The best of salesmanship has no chance 
whatever unless we get a hearing.
     
     The vast difference in headlines is shown by keyed returns 
which this book advocates.  The identical ad run with various 
headlines differs tremendously in its returns.  It is not uncommon 
for a change in headlines to multiply returns from five or ten 
times over.
     
     So we compare headlines until we know what sort of appeal pays 
best.  That differs in every line, of course.
     
     The writer has before him keyed returns on nearly two thousand 
headlines used on a single product.  The story in these ads are 
nearly identical.  But the returns vary enormously, due to the 
headlines.  So with every keyed return in our record appears the 
headlines that we used.
     
     Thus we learn what type of headline has the most wide-spread 
appeal.  The product has many uses.  It fosters beauty.  It 
prevents disease.  It aides  daintiness and cleanliness.  We learn 
to exactness which quality most of our readers seek.
     
     That does not mean we neglect the others.  One sort of appeal 
may bring half the returns of another, yet be important enough to 
be profitable.  We overlook no field that pays.  But we know what 
proportion of our ads should, in the headline, attract any certain 
class.
     
     For this same reason we employ a vast variety of ads.  If we 
are using twenty magazines we may use twenty separate ads.  This 
because circulations overlap, and because a considerable percentage 
of people are attracted by each of several forms of approach.  
We wish to reach them all.
     
     On a soap, for instance, the headline "Keep Clean" might 
attract a very small percentage.  It is to commonplace.  So might 
the headline, "No animal fat."  People may not care much about 
that.  The headline, "It floats" might prove interesting.  But a 
headline referring to beauty or complexion might attract many times 
as many.
     
     An automobile ad might refer in the headline to a good 
universal joint.  It might fall flat, because so few buyers think 
of universal joints.  The same ad with a headline, " The Sportiest 
of Sport Bodies," might out pull the other fifty to one.
     
     This is enough to suggest the importance of headlines.  Anyone 
who keys ads will be amazed at the difference.  The appeals we like 
best will rarely prove best, because we do not know enough people 
to average up their desires.  So we learn on each line by 
experiment.
     
     But back of all lie fixed principles.  You are presenting an 
ad to millions.  Among them is a percentage, small or large, whom 
you hope to interest.  Go after that percentage and try to strike 
the chord that responds.  If you are advertising corsets, men and 
children don't interest you.  If you are advertising cigars, you 
have no use for non-smokers.  Razors won't attract women, rouge 
will not interest men.
     
     Don't think that those millions will read your ads to find out 
if your product interests.  They will decide by a glance - by your 
headline or your pictures.  Address the people you seek, and them 
only.
 
Return to Book Intro and Chapter Index:  Scientific Advertising
Continue to next Chapter: Advertising Psychology

 

 

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