HOW TO WRITE A HEADLINE LIKE AN AD EXECUTIVE


Peter Whent

November 14, 2022

One lump or two?

Come with me, we’re going to write a headline.

Something that’ll make Don Draper and the guys at Sterling Cooper reach for their mid-morning whisky.

Let’s imagine we’ve just been commissioned by a famous tea brand. They want to reconnect with their traditional British audience.

Here’s what most people would do. They’d talk about the product.

“Making tea since 1831.”

“Award winning tea”

“Great taste”

Problem. This logical approach gets ignored. It lights up the part of our brain that deals with shopping lists and tax returns.

That’s why we’re pretty meh when people bore-post about their product.

So here's what I’d do. To get creative I’d think about tea in a different way.

It holds a unique place in British culture. It’s what we’re famous for. We need to find some pretty words to conjure up that imagery. We’re trying to create something that lights up the part of our brain that deals with love letters and walking your daughter down the aisle.Enter your text here...

It's not tea its....

We're going to start this creative process by asking the question: “What does tea mean to us?” Here’s a couple of ideas.

“It’s a reassuring conversation with your Mum”

“It’s a good book and a comfy chair”

OK now we’re getting somewhere. The next step is a plot twist.

To create our headline I’m going to introduce some contrast. Still using the answers we have, I’m going to start the headline with:

“It’s not tea it’s…”.

“It’s not tea. It’s a hug that tells you you’re ok”

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For example: “It’s not tea, it’s a reassuring conversation with your Mum”

The contrast is everything.

Now let’s take our “What is tea?” answers and put them into this new format. Here’s a selection:

“It’s not tea, it’s…”

“…a hug that tells you you’re ok.”

“…a moment for you and your thoughts"

“…a reminder of home, wherever you are.”

“…a way of life”

“…a feeling.”

Get the picture.

Now put it all together and choose one. I’m going for:

“It’s not tea. It’s a hug that tells you you’re ok”

Eat your heart out Ogilvy.

How would you write the headline? Do a couple of things for me:

  1. Complete the sentence: “It’s not tea, it’s….”
  2. Send me your answer at peter@peterwhent.com
Thank you to Thom Binding for the inspo and ideas.

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