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Your Attention, Please!

Want readers to notice your ad? Get in their face.

In last month's column, I strutted out like some kind of advertising drum major holding aloft one of advertising's most powerful words and suggesting you put it in your ad's headline because of its ability to draw people in.

That word was "secret." And my exact wording in November's issue was, "I feel safe in saying that if you use the word `secret' in the headline or title of your ad or promotion, your ad is almost guaranteed to get noticed, which is half the battle."

Well, sure enough, after putting myself on the line with such a blanket statement, I got my comeuppance just a week later in the form of an ad that arrived in my mailbag using the S-word in the headline. The ad apparently had not gotten a lot of notice. It had run months earlier, so it hadn't been created based on my recommendation. But the fact that it did what I suggested and still came up short gave me a sick feeling.

The ad was sent in by Joe Tye, a motivational author and speaker from Solon, Iowa, who requested that I take a look at the ad--promoting one of his seminars--for possible ways to improve its performance. I took one look at the ad and slunk down in my chair. There it was, the word I proclaimed to be among the most potent in the universe, wedged in a headline that simply didn't benefit from the "secret" spark.

But before ripping off my copywriter epaulets in disgrace and despair, I realized this ad didn't give "secret" nearly the marquee setting it requires. So if there's an asterisk to be added to my earlier proclamation, it's that the word needs to "get in the face" of the reader. That is, it needs to be big and intrusive enough to be noticed instantly. Moreover, as I pointed out last month, if the word "secret" is in the headline, the ad needs to actually reveal or hint at some of that hush-hush information or else readers are left feeling unsatisfied, indifferent or duped. Tye's ad, while containing some solid salesmanship that includes a headline that hardly needs apologizing for, is missing such impact, both visually and in the fact that none of the secrets are even hinted at.

My suggestion is to create a new headline using the word "secrets" and then provide a sneak preview of the enticing, little-known information, with the implication that there's a lot more where that came from.

Jerry Fisher is an advertising copywriter, consultant and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising($39.95), available by calling (800) 247-6553. If you'd like Jerry to consider your materials for a makeover in this column, send them to "Advertising Workshop," Entrepreneur, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614, or contact Jerry via America Online at

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This article was originally published in the December 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Your Attention, Please!.

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