Friday, February 13, 2009

Why you should think more seriously about killing yourself

Today I was thinking about kick-ass intriguing headlines. Killer lines that need no image. Lines so good you’re physically incapable of doing anything other than reading the copy.

Lines like these.

Why you should think more seriously about killing yourself.
The Samaritans

This is perhaps the most infuriating ad you will ever read. Unless you are 21.
Bankers Trust Australia Group

Answer these ten questions and work out the date of your own death.
Albany Life

Which one of these men do you think would be best at rape?
The Solicitors’ Regional Dictionary

What are your chances of getting pregnant tonight?
The Health Education Council

Do this or die.
Doyle Dane Bernbach

Is this the best ad ever written?
The Ball Partnership

Astronaut Wanted
No experience necessary
The first Anglo-Soviet space mission

Here’s a dead dog. Where’s my award?

How to kill a baby.
Woman’s Day

Somewhere in this picture, 2nd lt. Eric Heaton lies dying.
Imperial War Museum Appeal

It seems like this kind of line is a rare breed these days, which is a shame. All the above examples are from The Copy Book (published 1995), which means the ads are all at least 14 years old and mostly a lot more. Our style today is a softer intrigue. Maybe we think these are too crude. Or maybe they just don’t win awards, which also seems a shame. Or is it just in the UK and you’ll find loads of recent examples somewhere like the US?

Also, there are a lot in there about death. I’m not sure if that’s coincidence, or because it’s easier to write an intriguing line about death. Or perhaps I have a fixation with death and these are the ones that stood out to me.


  1. I had the book. I refer to it whenever I 'm lost, bitter, or just in need of some inspiration. Or when I just want to flaunt to my colleague sitting next to me that I read cool stuff that's too big to carry.

    I read all those lines and...the memories...I AM OLD.

  2. It is rare indeed. Crude might be one of the reason as to why these lines cease to exist. Or maybe, just maybe, advertising people are still too busy trying to be clever.

    My dua sens

  3. I would also throw search engine technologies into the equation. While the examples are certainly great attention-getting headlines for print, there are different requirements (leading to a different style) for a "successful" headline online today. IMO, of course.