The Most Important Part Of Any Ad

By: Dan Kennedy on: February 15th, 2010 16 Comments

Let’s talk about the basics of effective advertising and writing effective advertising copy.

The first critically important key is the development of effective headlines. The headline is the most important component part of any type of advertising. It must work or nothing else matters.

Next in importance are the subheads that are used to break up long blocks of copy.

Next are photo captions. Photo captions are marvelous opportunities to make persuasive arguments. People are drawn to pictures and often read the captions beneath the pictures before reading just about anything else.

The same basic guidelines apply to headlines, subheads and photo captions.

First the headline should promise a positive benefit or ask a provocative question or both.

Second, it’s best if it’s concise, 12 to 15 words or less – however many copywriters use a short pre-headline and a longer secondary headline in addition to the main headline, and work with what’s called “headline real estate”, which may be as little as the top 1/4th to as much as the top ½ of the first page of a letter or brochure: typically no more than the top 1/3rd of a full-page ad.

Third, it should stand alone. That means it should make a complete statement by itself.

I’ll give you a great example to compare all of your headlines to one that comes from the National Enquirer. This is a headline of a small mail order ad that has been running continuously in the Enquirer since before I was alive, a great indication that it works.

Here’s the headline: “Corns Gone in Five Days or Money Back.”

This is a great headline. In just eight words it clearly promises a benefit, corns gone. It strengthens the promise benefit with a specific time frame, in five days. And it further strengthens the benefit with a guarantee.

Your headlines, subheads and photo captions need to be equally strong.

If your headline does its job it will grab the attention of the reader and motivate him to read more of your offer. The headline will bring the reader into the copy.

There are fourteen tips to make sure that your advertising copy works. I’ll give you the first seven of them in my next post.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

    Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to www.GKIC.com

    16 Responses

    1. Charles Ra says:

      The first critically important key is the development of effective headlines
      the subheads that are used to break up long blocks of copy.
      Next are photo captions

      First the headline should promise a positive benefit or ask a provocative question or both.
      Second, it’s best if it’s concise, 12 to 15 words or less
      Third, it should stand alone.

      thank you Dan

    2. Good tip. I have successfully spent the most time on and started with the headline. My #FAIL has been in doing the photo captions last and spending barely more time on them than it takes to type them out. After reading this, I’ll now move the photo captions up the ladder to the #2 priority after the headline.

    3. Jim Troth says:

      Very true, the goal of the headline is to get the reader to read more, if the headline fails then the ad never gets read.

    4. Excellent! The fundamentals never change, but I do need reminding of them sometimes. :)

      Thanks Dan!

      Craig Valine, IBA
      GKIC – Glendale/Pasadena Local Chapter

    5. Absolutely true. It’s always about the basics. Thanks you so much for reminding us the importance of those fundamentals. It certainly makes me think every time I pick up the paper!

      Thanks.

      Jonathan Flaks

    6. Doc says:

      Chicken and the egg!

      Which comes first? The article, ad, etc. or the headline?

      • Felipe Hernandez says:

        The head line; without it, nothing else matter without a headline nobody will read the ad.

    7. Rob Anspach says:

      Focus on headline writing! Then when comfortable add photos.

      I rarely put photos in my sales letters…its just pure copy!
      I find the marketing pieces without photos get a better “pull” and better ROI

    8. Donna Kopf says:

      The beginning … always a good place to start. I look forward to the next 7 tips.

    9. You know a headline is terrific when you can use just the headline and a phone number and have responses to that as a classified ad in the newspaper…

      (I think that’s from Dan.)

    10. Yes, Rabbi, that is Dan’s test for successful headline (today we can test more quickly and cheaply with Google Adwords).

      My local yellow pages book arrived the other day. Clearly, 95% of the advertisers (and yellow page sales reps) have never read any of Dan’s stuff, and have zero clue how to construct an effective ad.

      Some of the super-strong, compelling, effective (NOT!) headlines in full-page (!!!) ads include:

      “The Law Office Of Daniel E Goodman”
      “Capps Plumbing & Sewer”
      “Lindholm Roofing”
      “Innovative Family Dentistry Since 1984”

      Any wonder why people think “advertising in the yellow pages doesn’t work anymore”? Not when you waste your money on ads like that!

    11. Yellow Pages= Good source of leads for rich clueless people you can teach marketing to (for a fee.)

      That’s about all it’s good for these days.

    12. Rob Anspach says:

      Yellow pages are a dying commodity and 99% of most brilliant marketers know there are better ways to attract clients than using an outdated media

    13. While short, 12-15 word headlines can be very successful, I have experienced great success, as has Dan, with long headlines, 30-50 words or more. The important thing to do is test, Test, TEST!

    14. Rob Anspach says:

      I actually prefer short headlines…sometimes only 1 word.

    15. […] stand alone. That means it should make a complete statement by itself.Dan’s brief article on The Most Important Part Of Any Ad is worth reading for more specifics on headline writing.The Source Must be Trustworthy.So, […]

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