As a professional copywriter, I’ve received a lot
of training. There’s a ton of testing that has gone
into creating the body of distinctions that any
good copywriter knows.
The biggest one is and has always been and will
always be, “The Headline is 80% of the ad”.
In other words, the headline is the ad for the ad.
The headline attracts your audience. And if you
don’t have an audience, the copy won’t do anybody
any good because nobody will read it.
So, if nobody will open your envelope, it doesn’t matter
how brilliantly you told your story.
I know this and have known this for a long time. But
you can know it better and better and better.
What makes a good headline? The perceived
self interest of the reader, that’s what.
Here’s an incident that drove it home for me.
I was on the Danforth in Toronto, during the
Taste of the Danforth festival. There were probably
another 100,000 people milling about in the
I was sitting in a café with a friend and I noticed a
guy walking out without his beautiful, expensive
briefcase. So I sprung up, opened the door just
after he’d closed it, and as he started to disappear
into the throng, I yelled out, “Sir!”.
I didn’t have much time to reflect, so after a
microsecond of contemplation, I tried, “Your
briefcase!” His reticular activation system did
not pick up.
Then I had the brainwave. I yelled out, “Yellow
Sweater!” and somewhere in the recesses of his
brain he said, “That’s me!”, turned around and
I waved him in to get his briefcase.
That moment told me more about headlines than
all the books I’d read.
So the bottom line here is that our prospect has
to say, reflexively, “That’s me!”.
And, “That’s what I want!”