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Against the Tide

To grab attention in a crowded marketplace, try breaking away from the pack with an understated ad.

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This story appears in the March 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Flip through most big consumer magazines, and what do you see in between the editorial matter? A blur of colors, exclamations, toothy pitchpersons, toll-free numbers, a coupon here, a Web site there. Or maybe it's page after page of anorectic models, greased in almond oil and draped in designer gear. Or perhaps it's a sheaf of toddler images showing little Trevors, Trents or Madisons goo-gooing over their strollers, burpy dolls, car seats or lozenges for little sore throats.

If any of these represent the kind of environment in which you plan to advertise, maybe you need to be a contrarian and create an ad that leaps out with clever understatement. That's what the ad shown here does. Created by Chicago's famed Leo Burnett USA ad agency for Eggo, a division of Kellogg, it is designed in an unexpected letter format (contrasting with most of the ads before and after it) and sports a fresh and whimsical, triteness-free headline. No, the heading doesn't directly promote a benefit, as we're taught in Headline Writing 101. But it gets an exemption for being relevantly offbeat. To quote one of my favorite advertising pooh-bahs, the late Victor Schwab, on the value of developing headlines like this: "Many a headline fails to stop readers because its vocabulary is so hackneyed. No word or phrase in it has any attention-getting element of surprise. No words, expressions or ideas are used that are not commonly seen in the headline of an ad." So "You're sticky and we're sorry" gets a thumbs up.

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