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Where have all the headlines gone?

Talent Attraction

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David Ogilvy (known by many as “the father of advertising”) famously said, “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” And at that moment, the power of the headline was defined.

This isn’t just true of advertising; we see the art of attention-grabbing headlines in our newsfeeds every day. Love them or loathe them, it’s hard to forget classics like The Sun’s “Gotcha!”, “Freddie Star ate my hamster” and the premonitory “Up yours Delors!”, or Air Asia’s online classic “Cheap enough to say, Phuket I’ll go”.

Admittedly, at the time Ogilvy made his observation we were living in a very different marketing world – the mainstay of most campaigns was still printed media and the internet was still decades away.

However, I’d argue that the power of headlines has never been greater. We live much busier lives now, consume much more media and encounter marketing messages almost constantly. Whilst the need for an eye-catching image has risen, a complementary and arresting headline is critical to pulling the audience in and sealing the deal.

Let’s apply this thinking to talent attraction and employee comms. Whatever platform you’re using (Google Jobs/Ads, programmatic, social channels, job posts, your intranet, etc.) your headlines (and any supporting copy that’s shown as an intro or teaser) need to work hard to immediately deliver your key proposition. I think that the biggest danger comes from seeing the current media mix as an opportunity to throw endless copy at the wall (e.g. tome-like job descriptions/listings) and hope something sticks.

So, let’s avoid verbosity and get back to basics – start crafting headlines and intro copy that stops people in their tracks and sells your propositions. A picture might say a thousand words, but sometimes just a few crafted words say it much better.

My favourite headline? It has to be taken from the Irish Examiner in 2009 – “Cork man drowns” and no, it wasn’t a joke, but yes – he was called Bob!


Simon McLoughlin