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Seventy-two Point Headline, All-singing, All-dancing World, When So Many Ads Are Banging The Big Drum...

In our deadly-earnest, hard-selling, seventy-two point headline, all-singing, all-dancing world, when so many ads are banging the big drum, those which have the courage to do no more than perform a modest melody on a lively sax stand that much more chance of being heard. Hard-sell, the material that will have no lorry with such irrelevancies as humour, innuendo and subtlety, appeals to a great many advertisers. It appeals, especially, to those people without the imagination to realize that gentle persuasion is not only much more rewarding than brute force, but is also likely to allow one the splendid opportunity to go back and have a second go. Because the hard stuff is brisker and more to the point, they imagine it must necessarily be more effective.

This is a contention that just won't hold water. If you need a precept, here it is. Resist the temptation to inject a fancied urgency into your headlines by the inclusion of an imperative now! If you have something to 'now' about, fair enough; but if you haven't, your headline will almost certainly be stronger without it. The same goes for look! and suddenly! and similar bring-'em-up-short words.

In the right context, they're fine; though if you start saying the equivalent of suddenly . . . nothing much happened! don't be surprised if you suddenly get nothing much in the way of response. Over the years, I have grown weary and dispirited trying, with ninety-eight per cent lack of success, to persuade sundry Philistines that the above principle of online advertising is immutable. They mostly continue to ignore me. So since there is no profit in banging your head against a brick wall if all you get out of it is a blinding headache, I will say no more about it.

If you are in any way serious about this copy business, you should from now on spend much of your time reading ads. Try to discover why one ad appeals to you more than another. Is it because of the message it delivers, or the way it delivers the message? Is it on account of the illustration, or the drift of the copy - or both? Which of the main components drew you into the ad in the first place? While you're at it, exercise your mind on various ways of 'improving' the ads you like - either in the headline, the copy, or the illustration. And be not surprised when, a few days later, you come across ads in the same series framed roughly along the lines of those you dreamed up.

When this happens, give yourself a pat on the back. But bear in mind that you haven't originated - just developed. We shall be talking about origination in the following chapter.

Summary 1 As far as copy English is concerned, there is but one thing left to say. In this website we are concerned only with general principles; and if general principles clash with pedantic rules then so much the worse for pedantic rules. 2 Humour and good taste rarely go hand-in-hand. A joke is almost always funny because of its doubtful taste.

In being humorous, therefore, you run the risk of offending at least some of your audience. But in being downright inane, you run the risk of displeasing all of them. To paraphrase Lord Chesterfield: A man must have a good deal of wit himself to endure a great deal in another.

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