Introducing David Ogilvy’s 19 Tips To Write Potent Headlines And Body Copy

Posted on October 2, 2012

In David Ogilvy’s classic, Confessions of an Advertising Man, he gives 10 tips to write potent headlines and another nine tips to write potent body copy.

David Ogilvy

10 Tips For Potent Headlines

1. Use headline to “flag down the readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.” If you are targeting moms, mention them. If you are targeting moms and dads, don’t mention moms only. You’ll loose half of the audience.

2. The “headline should appeal to the reader’s self-interest.” What’s in it for the reader?

3. “Always try to inject news into your headlines.” Users and consumers are looking for new things – so make sure to highlight what’s new about your product.

4. Use words such as “How to, suddenly, now, announcing, introducing, it’s here, just arrived” and similar cliches. They are cliches because they work. That’s why they are cliches.

5. As only 20 % read the full article, make sure to ”include the brand name in the headline”.

6. “Include your selling promise in your headline.” Even though the headline becomes rather long. Shouldn’t be more than 12 words though.

7. Use headlines to “arouse their curiosity.”

8. Don’t use tricky or ‘clever’ headlines because they “don’t stop to decipher the meaning of an obscure headline.”

9. Don’t “use negatives in headlines.” The reader misunderstand them.

10. “Avoid blind headlines” – meaning headlines that only make sense if the reader reads the full body copy.

David Ogilvy with a pibe. The ultimate trust symbol?

David Ogilvy with a pibe. The ultimate trust symbol?

9 Tips For Potent Body Copy

1. “Don’t beat about the bush” – get straight to the point you want to make

2. “Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating.” Be factual, but don’t be a bore. Giving more facts sell more than giving few facts. And that’s a fact.

3. Always “include testimonials in your copy.” Sometimes the entire copy can be a testimonial; sometimes it should only take up a little space.

4. Don’t just focus on selling your own stuff, but “give the reader helpful advice, or service.”

5. Don’t be a poet – only few understand it: “I share Clause Hopkins’ view that ‘fine writing is a distinct disadvantage’”.

6. “Avoid Bombast”. No one likes people like that.

7. Don’t be solemn or pretentious – but “write your copy in the colloquial language which your customers use in everyday conversation.”

8. Write copy that sells and “resist the temptation to write the kind of copy which wins awards.”

9. Good copy doesn’t entertain – it sells: “good copywriters have always resisted the temptation to entertain.”

That’s it! I hope I didn’t oversell with the introducing headline ;)

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