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Famous First Words

Three, two, one. That's how much time you have to make a good first impression in advertising--so choose your words wisely.

Imagine this: You're crossing a busy street in midtown Manhattan, and by some divine coincidence, you find yourself in the position to heroically shove the CEO of a national TV network out of the path of an oncoming car. In deep gratitude, and after learning you're an entrepreneur, the famous exec rewards you with three seconds of prime broadcast air time to sell your product or service. You think you've hit the jackpot. But what could you possibly say in those few precious seconds of entrepreneurial nirvana that could move a national TV audience to want your product?


It's not an easy assignment. But that's the mind-set you need to get into to create an enticing advertising hook in any medium. Because the truth is, the average passerby gives you just three seconds--maximum--to compel him or her to pay attention to you. Therefore, you want to develop the pithiest distillation of your sales proposition possible. You need a small handful of words that, as they say, resonate with the audience.

This is my message to Jon Black, owner of NorthStar Direct Inc. in Vernon, Connecticut, who wrote recently. Black's company makes a personal finance product called The Money Organizer that fits inside your checkbook and helps you manage your finances and erase debt. It's an innovative little item that Black and his wife, Shellie, developed to get through a major financial crunch several years ago. After they got through it successfully, they thought, "Hey, if it worked for us, it'll work for others." The Money Organizer has garnered a thumbs-up mention in a book on financial planning, as well as an appearance on CNNfn. So the product has legs and is ready to run--all it needs is some strong promotion behind it. The Blacks have taken a first stab at an ad, and now they're ready to build on it.

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 "Ad Workshop," Entrepreneur, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614, or e-mail him at

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This article was originally published in the October 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Famous First Words.

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