Dare to be bold. And there's no better place to be bold than in the headline. It shows conviction, and it stops readers in their tracks. Assertive headlines get right in the face of the audience with—ideally—a key message or a call to action. ¶ Tone and typography can create a sense of boldness. The savvy combination of the two is a potent formula for arresting the target's attention. How's this for bold:
“Throw the first punch,” reads the oversized headline reversed against a striking orange background in this ad for Unisys. There's no visual per se, which is how advertisers most frequently flag down an audience. But this ad doesn't lack stopping power.
Copy is nearly as aggressive. It's crisp and punchy: “Successful companies don't flinch. They confidently assert their presence in the marketplace and refuse to let fear paralyze their ambition. ... Unisys Solutions for Secure Business Operations enable you to be more innovative, more competitive and as bold as you want to be.”
IBM minces no words with this headline aimed at an audience of health care and pharmaceutical decision-makers: “Stop Talking. Start Curing.” The headline, a combination of orange, green and white letters, is set against a backdrop of black. The lower half of the ad features a man in surgical scrubs. Wedged between the headline and the image are three lines of text:
“IBM helps implement online portals with consolidated, real-time views of critical patient information, allowing health care and pharmaceutical organizations to provide better care ... .” The closing lines of text slightly alter the headline's instruction: “Stop Talking. Start Doing.”
Dell gets right to the point by declaring itself to be No. 1 in the headline. The Chasers don't normally approve of such corporate chest-thumping because it makes the advertiser appear maker-oriented rather than customer-oriented. But it's not a case of Dell tooting its own horn. Copy cites the source of the claim: “According to Forrester Research, more than half the enterprise companies in North America and Europe rely on Dell for notebook and desktop computers.”
Dell reinforces its claim of superiority by breaking out a pie chart indicating that its products are preferred by a majority of the market. If your company truly is a leader or has a leading product—and you can prove it—there's every reason to boldly trumpet the accomplishment or the distinction with a headline of almost equal weight.
In an ad targeting business customers, Southwest Airlines emblazons this message across the sky in big, blocky, black letters: “Your Laptop. Your Cell Phone. Your Airline.” But unlike the previous ads, this oversized headline doesn't tell the readers what they should do or what they should know. It struck us as a missed opportunity. We thought that a subhead beneath the aircraft might have made a key point about how laptops, cell phones and the right airline add up to enhanced productivity.
The copy does just that, but it's at risk of getting lost in the clouds. A bolder treatment, in the form of a subhead, would have been better.
Finally, there's this larger-than-life, eye-catching headline for CA: “SHURIMDYAE” Huh? Between the parentheses is the translation: “Security Helps Us Rake In More Dollars, Yen And Euros.”
The headline is used more as a gimmick than to deliver a straightforward message. But if readers are willing to play along, there's a good chance they'll walk away with an appreciation for CA's ability to make a business not only more secure but more competitive as well.
Readers can learn about that in the text, but its appearance is off-putting because of the denseness of the six lines of copy that run from one end of the ad to the other. No matter, because CA had us at SHURIMDYAE. M