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Direct Mail, E-mail and Advertising Copywriting

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Action Ideas For Better Direct Mail,
E-mail, Web Sites & Advertising

Published by
Ivan Levison, Direct Response Copywriting

March 2007
Volume: 22 Number: 3

Two kinds of headlines ­
Which should YOU be using?

Zillions of headlines have been written over the years, but in my view they all
fall into one of two categories.

Teaser headlines or benefit headlines.

Teaser headlines are meant to stop you in your tracks because of their cleverness.
They don't really communicate anything important in themselves but are meant to
intrigue you so that your curiosity draws you into the body copy. Here are five teaser
headlines from ads that appeared in a recent issue of Forbes.

We give you the confidence to dream

How do you efficiently deliver feed
to a farmer who knows all his animals by name?


The retirement sonata

Some think breakfast

Benefit headlines, on the other hand, DO mean something all by themselves.
They do NOT depend on cleverness or the reader's curiosity but, instead, try to
clearly communicate a solution to the reader's problem. Here are five benefit
headlines from ads that also appeared in the same Forbes issue.

More delivery options to and from China

Our indispensable guide
to building wealth in the stock market

Life insurance prices drop to all-time lows

Back pain? There IS an answer

Humidifier and purifier. Two in one.

Faithful readers of the Levison Letter will have guessed by now that I advocate using
benefit headlines. And you¹ll have guessed right. But I must point out that some of the
greatest print ads ever written used the teaser technique to enormous advantage.

For example, one of the old, classic Doyle Dane Bernbach ads for the introduction
of the Volkswagen featured a simple photo of the car. It was accompanied by the
one-word headline: "Lemon." To see how the body copy played off the header,
check out this trail-blazing ad at:

Yes. This ad is brilliant, but if you're not Bill Bernbach I'd suggest you stick to
benefit headlines that communicate instantly. Remember, a teaser headline is
a bet. It's a wager that your headline is so compelling and interesting, it will
get the reader into the copy.

I don'¹t like to play fast and loose with my clients' money. I'd rather bet on a sure
thing and stop the reader cold with a benefit, not a conundrum.

If YOU are tempted to use a teaser headline and play it cute in an ad, in direct mail,
or on the Web, I urge you to think again. As John Caples, the father of direct
marketing advertising advised years ago:

"Avoid the 'hard-to-grasp' headline -- the headline that requires thought and is not
clear at first glance. Remember that the reader's attention is yours for only a single
involuntary instant. People will not use up their valuable time trying to figure out what
you mean. They will simply turn the page."

How To Get In Touch

Ivan Levison
Direct Response Copywriting
14 Los Cerros Drive
Greenbrae, CA 94904

Phone: (415) 461-0672
Fax: (415) 461-7738
E-mail: ivan@levison.com
Web Site: http://www.levison.com

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