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The Importance of the Ad for the Ad

by Michel Fortin

"Top-of-mind awareness" is not exclusive to marketing in general. It also applies to an advertisement's headline. Many people use boring or unappealing headlines for their ads, and it surprises me when I see many ads with headlines that do not communicate a precise, immediate, and direct benefit. While such ads do not generate the response nor the business for which they were intended, the headline and not the ad may be to blame.

A headline is not meant to advertise the business, product, service, web site, sale, or event. It's not a summary of the ad either. It's meant to advertise the advertisement. It's the ad for the ad. A rTsumT, for instance, is not meant to land a "job" but to land an "interview." A headline is, in the very same way, meant to land the reader's attention and not their interest. In essence, the true role of a headline is to grab the reader's attention in order to keep them reading. Once they read the ad, then -- and only then -- interest should be developed.

You may have heard of the AIDA formula, which stands for: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. The first part of this simple formula refers to the headline and it is where most ads usually fail. If the headline doesn't command enough attention, then the rest of the formula -- even if the ad is effective -- fails. So, how can a headline grab a reader's attention?

Your headline must be packed with benefits. Not only that, it must communicate direct, specific, and immediate benefits (i.e., the benefits of reading the ad in the first place). To help you, here are two tips on how to increase the attention-factor in your headlines:

The Gapper
Usually, there is a gap between the prospect's problem and its solution. However, many prospects do not know that there is in fact a problem. A headline that communicates the presence of such a gap or widens it will most likely appeal to those who can immediately relate to it. In other words, those who are attracted by the headline always had the "gap" in the back of their minds, but the headline merely brings it back to the top and causes them to read further. Hence, they want to know, by reading your ad, how they can close that gap.

To use a headline that conveys a problem is to make the reader aware that there is one (or at least reinforce it), and then to demonstrate that the solution exists further in the ad. For instance, if you advertise a way to make money your headline must subconsciously tell the reader: "Got money problems? Then read my ad and I'll show you how to get rid of them."

Those who appreciate the message the headline communicates will be much more tempted to read further. For example, the pain-pleasure principle states that we have a tendency to avoid pain or strive towards pleasure. But when given the choice between the two, the avoidance of pain is far superior. Therefore, a headline that communicates a negative situation, problem, or painful (or potentially painful) situation will automatically be understood by those who associate to its message. Such readers will then feel compelled to read the ad.

For example, when I work with plastic surgeons, I often tell them to place as a headline for their ads, "Are you suffering from wrinkles?" Immediately, patients who can instantly relate to the ad will more than likely read the ad in its entirety. They do so for two reasons:

1. They have wrinkles (they fit the surgeon's demographics), and;
2. They suffer from wrinkles (they fit the surgeon's psychographics,
     i.e., they also want to do something about it).

This technique is applicable in almost all cases. Think of a negative situation that is now present, or one that will occur without the benefits of your product or service. If you're selling insurance for example, the "gapper" could be: "Due to insufficient insurance coverage, millions of dollars are lost every 8 minutes," or "Trying to save $300, I lost over $300,000! A true story," or "Don't let a $50,000 dollar bill compound your grief... Yes! It can happen to you."

In the marketing consulting business, "gappers" could include: "Don't let another million-dollar prospect slip through the cracks," or "Stop wasting your marketing money on ineffective advertising and triple your hit-ratio with more compelling ads." The idea here is to emphasize benefits. A headline must make your prospect understand in an instant the pain of not enjoying the benefits of your offer. By reading further, they are somewhat seeking the solution.

The Freebie
Many studies have shown that the greatest technique in advertising that can double -- and sometimes even triple -- the readership of an ad is the use of a simple, single, four-letter word: "FREE." People are astonishingly attracted to freebies. Freebies, in an ad, can create a lot of response, but in a headline a freebie can multiply the response rate exponentially.

Offer a free sample, a free product, or a free service of some kind. However, being in the information age, the "free report" is my favorite. People love to soak up new information since "learned" experience is more cost-effective and less time-consuming than that which has been learned from experience. Using the pain-pleasure principle, people love free reports because they want to avoid making mistakes -- or learn how to avoid them.

So, if this appeals to you, then write on! Create a free report. The perceived value in the free information is oftentimes underrated. People who request your free report are qualifying themselves beforehand and become far more superior leads. Consequently, when it comes to the headline, the free report in particular can easily grab the attention of readers because it contains not one but two immediate benefits: Information that is both useful and free.

If you're a computer consultant to large offices, your headline can state, "Free report! The 10 biggest computer mistakes businesses make," or, "8 surefire strategies on how to improve paperflow efficiency by 67% -- Free report," or, "Are your computers bug-proof? Get my free report on ways to find out if the recent surge in computer viruses can cost you thousands in lost revenue -- and how to avoid them!" (The last example contained both the "gapper" and the "freebie." Obviously, this headline would therefore be more effective.)

The Final Word
Remember this simple axiom: The headline is the ad for the ad. It is not meant to summarize the ad or to sell the reader. It is simply an attention grabber. Once you've developed attention, you can then create interest and then increase desire... But that's a whole new article.

About the Author
Michel Fortin is a consultant dedicated to helping businesses turn into powerful magnets. Visit http://SuccessDoctor.com to receive a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning." He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 90,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at http://SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/.

Tags: Communicate



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