David Ogilvy on Headlines

Note: I’ve seen different versions of the first quote many times. It never gets old. But I just discovered the second Ogilvy quote about headlines today. It’s also a good one.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

“The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat.’ Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.”

Born in Scotland, the late David Ogilvy has been called the father of advertising. Find more David Ogilvy quotes here.


8 Effective Headline Types for B2B

“If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client’s money.”
−David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man

Writing a compelling headline isn’t as easy as it looks. That’s why it’s good to consider all the possibilities.

I thought of headline types after seeing a recent post at copyblogger. Actually, headline types haven’t changed much, if any, over the years. Following are eight variations that can work well for both B2B and B2C copy.

1. Direct. Direct headlines make a straightforward statement to readers. (Save up to 70% on generators.)

2. Indirect. Indirect headlines are designed to pique the curiosity of readers, providing the payoff in the body copy. (Issaquah is now home to 42,469 of your favorite authors.)

3. News. News headlines can be used when you have news or a special announcement. (Introducing the first watch you can wear with a wet suit and tie.)

4. How to. How to is the workhorse of headlines, promising useful information. When you’re drawing a blank, try a how-to headline. (How to get more mileage out of yellow pages advertising.)

5. Question. Question headlines are effective when your audience wants to know the answer. Craft a smart question and you’ll have them eating out of your hand. (What does the pilot strike mean for your travel plans?)

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The Sixties: A Creative Revolution



Society was rapidly changing in the sixties, and so was advertising and marketing, a period called “The Creative Revolution” by the American Advertising Museum. Along with my ad agency colleagues, I visited the museum located in Portland, Ore., several years ago.

“The memorable ads of the era mastered the language of television, rewrote the rules for print, and brought photography onto the main stage,” reads a museum handout. “They dramatized the product with wit, humor and understatement.”

Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy and Leo Burnett were three of the guiding creative forces of the revolution. Bernbach produced one of history’s most famous campaigns, featuring the Volkswagen Beetle. Ogilvy’s rise was tied to Rolls-Royce, Hathaway shirts and Schweppes. And Burnett was the creative mastermind behind the Marlboro Man and Jolly Green Giant (Ho! Ho! Ho!).

In the midst of our digital infotainment revolution, do wit, humor and understatement still have a place in advertising and marketing?

I’d say yes to wit and humor, depending on the product or service, but understatement is probably far too subtle for most people’s overloaded senses.

5 Tips for Writing Good Ad Headlines

Advertising legend David Ogilvy once said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

Obviously, writing good ad headlines is important work if you want your ads to succeed. I emphasize the word “work,” because it’s harder than it looks.

Here are five quick tips for writing good ad headlines:

1. Don’t settle on first efforts.
They’re often not as good as they first seem.

2. Give yourself time.
Unless you’re writing a text-heavy ad, spend most of your time on headlines.

3. Write a lot of headlines.
Don’t edit (at first), just write as many headlines as you can.

4. Try different headline types.

Direct, indirect, how to, news, question, testimonial and more.

5. Polish your best efforts.

Pick the most promising headlines and try to make them better.

This process should produce some workable ad headlines.

‘Use Their Language’

“If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language in which they think.”
−David Ogilvy

My daughter is taking French 1 in junior high. Last night I helped her study for a quiz. And I don’t know a lick of French.

“That’s OK, Dad,” she said. “Just say the words the best you can and I’ll spell them. It’s a spelling test.”

Imagine you were marketing something to Americans — in French. That would be absurd. Most would immediately tune it out because they wouldn’t understand a word of it.

Unfortunately, the language disconnect happens in many arenas. It’s not as obvious as my French to Americans example. Rather, it’s when communicators fail to learn the language nuances of their audiences, whether gender, educational, professional, cultural or other differences.

5 Deadly Sins of B2B Copywriting

No, these “sins” aren’t new. However, they’re very easy to commit when lost in the vast fog of media choices and marketing tactics. Be forewarned.

Deadly Sin #1: Not attracting attention.

If you don’t attract attention with a compelling headline or opening of some kind, it doesn’t matter what follows. As David Ogilvy famously said, “If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client’s money.” Work diligently on headlines and don’t try too hard to be clever.

Deadly Sin #2: Not identifying an audience need, concern, or problem.
In journalism parlance, this is called the hook. This is what tells your audience you understand them and sets up how you can help them.

Continue reading “5 Deadly Sins of B2B Copywriting”