Online advertising’s showing all the babyish characteristics of print and TV advertising before they grew up. Which is very reassuring to those of us who come from those media worlds. We feel we’ve been here before, we feel comfortable and at home – and it gives us endless scope to poke fun.
These thoughts arose after a trawl through my inbox over the past few days. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can make your advertising seem, well, incredible.
1. Always put numbers in your headlines.
Some time ago a well-meaning digital guru suggested that a headline promising a numbered list of benefits would always attract readers. The idea was that people like lists, so they’ll probably read on. Seemed reasonable at the time.
The older version was the ‘How’ headline. ‘I made a million selling Tupperware’ was OK, but ‘How I made a million selling Tupperware’ was a world-beater.
The trouble is, people in the selling game like formulas. So just as the ‘How’ headline became a cliche in print, the numbered-list headline has become the norm in Internet marketing.
And that goes against another much simpler and more effective formula: that, to gain attention, you need to stand out from the crowd.
So now look what’s happened. Here’s a selection of the headline messages I’ve received in the past couple of days:
Five quick things you can do this week to fix your marketing
Eight easily avoidable ways to lose a prospect
The five things customers actually want
Three ways to perk up your email response
Six simple steps to sales success
Thirty quick tips every retailer needs to know
Well, at least it makes clearing the inbox easier. I’m particularly taken with the concept of thirty quick tips. I’d guess the writer was blinded by the idea that more is better. Watch out for your local supermarket manager struggling to remember tip number twenty-three as he sees you approaching the special offers.
2. Go amazey crazy
Only amazing things are amazing. You don’t see many of them on a weekday in Faversham. You used to see a lot of them in press and TV advertising before writers discovered Roget. But a scan through my emails today brought these eye-popping features to light:
An amazing private ranch
An amazing ability to recreate the dramatic scenes from this momentous period
Amazing reunions. We’ve recently uploaded an amazing video all about twin sisters who were reunited after 55 years
Restaurants with amazing views
What emerges is nothing short of amazing – an inspiring tale of healing and human connection
Last minute summer sales and amazing deals
Twenty Easy and Free Tools for Creating Amazing Visuals
That’s all in one day. Blimey – it’s an exhausting world with so much amazement around.
But remember the boy who cried “Wolf!” When he was eventually eaten alive, people gathered around saying “Well, that was moderately surprising.”
3. Live on Fantasy Island
“Don’t miss this strange, weird and grotesque offer!” Any takers for that?
OK, I know we don’t always have to be literal. Yes, they’re the primary dictionary definitions of ‘fantastic’, but nowadays we generally equate ‘fantastic’ with ‘wonderful’.
Yet to online sellers the word is usually a crutch for a lame proposition. And that, too, is eerily familiar to those who remember the shouty days of old-style advertising.
Here’s another look at today’s inbox:
Get your garden ready for entertaining this summer with this fantastic offer
Offering an internship is a fantastic way for your organisation to recruit a bright and enthusiastic student
A fantastic stay in a fantastic place
Shop fantastic piano sheet music as featured on TV programs.
We’re pleased to present you with a fantastic 10% OFF return flights*!
Get more fantastic bestsellers!
Win £200 of Waitrose vouchers! Stop whatever you’re doing right now and enter our fantastic competitions
Some worthwhile messages there, perhaps. But it would be, er, fantastic to vary the vocabulary now and then, if only to suggest you’re not like everybody else.
4. There isn’t a point four
I told you not to fall for ‘number’ headlines.