Fine Print

The best ad phrases have already been written.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the February 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Readers of this column regularly complain that their ads, brochures, sales letters, e-mails or Web sites lack a certain spark they just can't seem to find. I hear the gripe all the time: "I know it's not as strong as it needs to be, but I can't seem to come up with the words."

I empathize with those feelings because I've been there myself. So where do I turn for help when I'm tapped dry of ideas? Very often, to back issues of newsweeklies, in search of stories related to the product or service I'm dealing with. That's because journalists often produce some interesting wordsmithing that can easily be recast into solid advertising headlines.

That's my message to Valerie Bennis of New York City. Bennis operates Essence of Vali Inc., a manufacturer and marketer of aromatherapy products. The "essence" of Bennis' advertising message is that the right aromatherapy blend can help you relax and sleep better. But unfortunately, her brochure cover is a little too relaxed itself to get that point across with impact.

My suggested revised headline is: "On the Verge of Sleep Bankruptcy?" An explanatory subhead then reads: "New research suggests that sleep deprivation can be a serious risk to health. Thankfully, there is a proven non-drug method of restoring sound sleep and the benefits it can bring." I plucked the phrase "on the verge of sleep bankruptcy" directly from a sentence in a story on sleeplessness in U.S. News and World Report. And, posed as a question, it makes for an evocative advertising headline. Perhaps it's time to poke through some back issues yourself.


This brochure cover offers good copy, but its delicate, sophisticated, diffused look keeps it from having instant impact.

This copy features some good salesmanship. But is it strong enough in tone and manner to have immediate effect?

The overall graphic impact here is a little too laid-back to grab the attention of passersby.


This headline is actually a powerful phrase plucked straight from a magazine article on the subject. See how the message is more potent?

The subhead points to the urgency of opening the brochure and getting more information.

This new cover has the impact required to get the attention of those desensitized to advertising (meaning everyone).

Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter and the author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising, which is available at To have your advertising considered for a makeover in this column, write to Jerry in care of Entrepreneur or e-mail

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