Thursday, May 25, 2017

How to write the perfect headline. A demonstration.

Some time, some time soon, some bright-eyed agency person, or enthusiastic go-getter on the client side, or some be-whiskered futurist somewhere will declare "the death of copywriting."

They will talk about a program of artificial intelligence that will spit out headlines laden with computer-selected words that have been PROVEN to stop people in their tracks and lead directly to sales.

A chorus of choristers will proclaim from the daises of a thousand drunken conferences that THIS WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING. The neo-alchemists of our century will once again proclaim that they can "turn base data into gold" and make every ad, by machine-learning, an effective ad.

Yesterday, I happened upon this site which purports to have an algorithm and a specialized vocabulary of 1,000 or so effective words, and a few other theorems that add up to the equivalent of advertising's Holy Grail: a headline with stopping power.

The site begins with a simple question: "How engaging is your headline." I filled the proper space with perhaps the greatest headline of all-time. 

Think small.

That earned a 38. A below average score.

They suggested I can fix the headline by following their simple suggestions:


    Increase headline length

    Where's the brand?

    Use more Alert Words

    Talk about the body

    Try adding a celebrity
I complied with the following headline. Having done all  I was asked to.

I increased the length.
I added the brand name.
I used Alert Words.
I talked about human body parts.
And I added a celebrity mention.

I replaced Think Small with this:

"Warning. Alert. When you think about Volkswagen think with both your head and heart, use the strength of your brains and the sinew of your arm, and think about a very small Volkswagen--the likes of which Kim Kardashian would drive."

That earned me a perfect score.

My personal belief--and I abide here by the wisdom of George Bernard Shaw who said "the power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those who haven't got it," that within six months my headlines and those of hundreds of other will be fed into algorithms like this by wayward souls passing as marketers. 

There will be countless requests to "fix" our lines according to "The Algorithm That Must Be Obeyed."

It's a good thing in modern office buildings windows don't open.

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