117 tested advertising headlines that made money

September 14, 2009 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

Tested Advertising Methods by John CaplesIf you want to write great headlines, you need to read great headlines. One of the best sources is Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples.

John Caples is to copywriters what Donald Trump is to entrepreneurs. He was Vice President of the BBDO advertising agency and became famous as the copywriter who rigorously tested headlines and every element of advertising copy to make money for his clients.

In no particular order, here are 119 advertising headlines cited in Tested Advertising Methods, and to a lesser extent in How to Make Your Advertising Make Money.

  1. They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano But When I Started to Play! –
  2. How I became popular overnight
  3. Would you invest $7 to be $1000 richer … without risking a cent?
  4. Do you make these mistakes in English?
  5. You can laugh at money worries if you follow this simple plan
  6. Corn Gone In 5 Days or Money Back
  7. NEXT 90 DAYS CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE – A Warning from the Wall Street Journal
  8. Greatest Bible News in 341 Years
  9. How a fool stunt made me a star salesman
  10. What’s wrong in this picture?
  11. How I improved my memory in one evening
  12. Give me 5 days and I’ll give you a Magnetic Personality … Let Me Prove It — FREE
  13. ANNOUNCING A new Course and Service for men who want to be independent in the next five years
  14. The deaf now hear whispers
  15. Wanted — your services as a high paid real-estate specialist
  16. Announcing a New Home Money-Making Plan
  17. “No time for Yale — took college home,” says well-known author
  18. I gambled a postage stamp and won $35,840 in 2 years
  19. Advice to Wives Whose Husbands Don’t Save Money
  20. How a strange accident save me from baldness
  21. Is $60 a day worth a postage stamp?
  22. Be a Hotel Hostess
  23. Banish Teetering Furniture
  24. Lifetime Floor Coating
  25. Spare-Time Cash
  26. Kill Ant Colonies at Their Source
  27. Spray Your Weeds Away with Weed Out
  28. Learn Dressmaking — Earn Money at Home
  29. Now! Orange Juice for the Whole Family … Quickly! Easily!
  30. Hollywood’s Make-up Secret
  31. BUY NO DESK Until You’ve Seen the Sensation of The Business Show
  32. Announcing a new selection of Kodak home-movie cameras
  33. Good-bye … old fashioned air conditioners
  34. New! Golf clubs specially sized for youngsters
  35. Now … a low-calorie Bacardi Daiquiri
  36. At last! A steam iron with a “Magic Brain”
  37. You can speak French by October 15
  38. The world’s first atomic watch
  39. Discovered — amazing way to grow hair
  40. Any 4 books (value up to $43.95) for only $1
  41. Free to brides … $2 to anyone else
  42. How to keep your husband home … and happy
  43. How I earn my living in 4 hours a day
  44. Why some people almost always make money in the stock market
  45. Which of these five skin troubles would you like to end?
  46. Do you have these symptoms of nervous exhaustion?
  47. Who else wants a whiter wash — with no hard work?
  48. This magical lamp automatically lights highway turns before you make them
  49. Advice to a young man starting out in business
  50. Can you pass the memory test?
  51. I was going broke — so I started reading The Wall Street Journal
  52. They thought I was crazy to ship Live Maine Lobsters as far as 1,800 miles from the ocean
  53. To a $15,000 man who would like to be making $25,000
  54. The Book-of-the-Month Club is for people who don’t have time for unimportant books
  55. Imagine Harry and Me advertising our PEARS in Fortune!
  56. “My Sears Kenmore Sewing Machine has 9 different stretch stitches — imagine!” says famous designer Bonnie Cashin.
  57. A WARNING to men who would like to be independent in the next five years
  58. TO THE MAN WHO IS 35 AND DISSATISFIED
  59. Now — $1 Enrolls You In The Doctors Hospital Plan To Safeguard Your Income and Savings If Sickness Or Accident Puts You In The Hospital
  60. I never stopped eating yet I lost 107 pounds.
  61. Girls! Want quick curls?
  62. HOW TO HAVE A COOL, QUIET BEDROOM EVEN ON HOT NIGHTS
  63. “Here’s an Extra $50, Grace — I’m making real money now!”
  64. A wonderful two years’ trip at full pay — but only men with imagination can take it
  65. HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE
  66. They Grinned When the Waiter Spoke to Me in French — but their laughter changed to amazement at my reply
  67. You’ll never drive a dirty car again!
  68. Is dry skin making you look older than you should? Touch these 5 spots and find out.
  69. BE $2,278 RICHER
  70. Get Rid of Money Worries for Good
  71. Any Four for Only $1
  72. How to Get Rid of an Inferiority Complex
  73. Order Christmas Gifts Now … Pay After January 1
  74. How $20 Spent may Save You $2000
  75. How a Man of 40 Can Retire in 15 Years
  76. If You Are a Careful Driver You Can Save Money on Car Insurance
  77. How to Get Your Cooking Bragged About
  78. How to Build an Attic Room
  79. How to Get a Loan of $500
  80. Can You Spot These 7 Common Decorating Sins?
  81. Tonight Serve This Ready-Mixed Chocolate Pudding
  82. Will Your Scalp Stand the “Fingernail Test”?
  83. How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling
  84. Do you make these travel mistakes?
  85. Are you ashamed of smells in your home?
  86. Can you talk about books with the rest of them?
  87. Car owners … save one gallon of gas in every ten
  88. Double your money back if this isn’t the best onion soup you ever tasted
  89. Free book tells you 12 secrets of better lawn care
  90. Great new discovery kills kitchen odors quick! — makes indoor air “country fresh”
  91. Have You Any of These Five Skin Troubles?
  92. Here’s How to Have a Long and Healthy Life.
  93. How I Made a Fortune With a “Fool” Idea
  94. How I started a new life with $7
  95. How $7 started me on the road to $35,000 a year
  96. How to collect from Social Security at any age
  97. How to do your Christmas shopping in 5 minutes
  98. How to make money writing short paragraphs
  99. I lost that ugly bulge in 2 minutes
  100. Imagine me … holding an audience spellbound for 30 minutes!
  101. I’ve tried ‘em all, but this is the polish I use on my own car … Frank Mills, Essex Garage
  102. I was tired of living on low pay — so I started reading the Wall Street Journal
  103. Lose ugly fat — an average of 7 pounds a month
  104. Men who “know it all” are not invited to read this page
  105. Now! Own Florida land this easy way … $20 down and $20 a month
  106. 161 new ways to a gourmet’s heart — in this fascinating book for cooks
  107. Play guitar in 7 days or money back
  108. The lazy man’s way to riches
  109. The secret of making people like you
  110. Thousands have this priceless gift — but never discover it
  111. To people who want to write — but can’t get started
  112. When doctors “feel rotten” this is what they do
  113. Will you give me 7 days to prove I can make you a new man?
  114. You don’t have to be rich to retire on a guaranteed income for life
  115. Own a Rembrandt for only $7.95
  116. How Investors Can Save 75% on Commissions This Year
  117. WANTED: SAFE MEN for Dangerous Times

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Smart Comments

13 Comments on 117 tested advertising headlines that made money

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Charles and cgcarman. cgcarman said: RT @PhilGerb: Helpful! RT @EdGandia: 117 headlines that made money http://budurl.com/jchx (tks @remarkablogger) [...]

  1. Títulos : Pequeno Guru on Sep 16th, 2009 9:03 am
  2. [...] todos os 119 títulos, 24 falam em dinheiro, 22 em começam com “Como”, 20 prometem algo rápido (ex: [...]

  3. Igor on Sep 16th, 2009 11:10 am
  4. I wonder why all these books are so old? Reeves, Hopkins, Caples. Even Joe Sugarmans book looks dated, looks older than Gossages book. Sure Bly had success with his book, but it seems to me that only freelance writers writes in that style anymore.

    All the big agencies – DDB, W+K, Saatchi & Saatchi and such – have moved beyond hard sell. And all the books written by agency copywriters today, have just one advice: cut the words – out! Find the idea that sucker punches the idea all the way home. And sprinkle some emotions on top. Why be a copywriter to do that. An AD can do that just as plain.

    Personally, I’m finding the new agency world a bit dull. All the ads taste the same. Guess that is why i’m search backwards through history. But.. i dunno.. ..feels like the only use I can use any of this, is if it’s sugar coated with irony.

    Well well. Great site, by the way. Keep it up!

  5. Dean Rieck on Sep 16th, 2009 11:28 am
  6. Igor, I think you’re comparing apples to mangoes here. Agencies are generally doing branding and mass market advertising, not direct marketing. Getting people to remember a brand and getting people to act now are different things.

    As for the book being old, yes it is. But I posted these headlines for inspiration not as a list of headlines to directly copy. They represent constructions that have been proven through testing to work better than other headlines. So they are worthy of study. It’s up to you to take from them what you find useful. You’re searching for new ideas (good for you) and the past is a great place to find them.

  7. Jules Brown on Sep 24th, 2009 6:46 pm
  8. Hi Dean,

    I agree, every copywriter who wants to write copy that sells should be familiar with this list.

    I’m becoming increasingly cynical of the raft of internet writers publishing blogs, and books about how the modern, “Generation Y” consumer is so completely different from the consumer of yesterday, which really translates as: “Buy my new marketing book that says marketing ain’t like it used to be.”

    Every time I read one of these blogs I laugh. As the base level, marketing is “just like it used to be” because people are just like they used to be. The evolution of the human brain didn’t change overnight because of new technology, social media, or txt spk.

    The old books and old headlines are still important, because they were written and compiled by the first generation of people to effectively test and measure the human truths about consumer response. And there’s plenty for us to learn from them.

    Trends, technology, style, buzz words, etc… all these things have moved on. So the landscape has changed. But the people are still much the same as they used to be. And so is the human response to a line on an envelope or a commercial.

    Jules

  9. Dean Rieck on Sep 24th, 2009 9:08 pm
  10. Jules,

    You nailed it. This is exactly what I’m always telling people. People don’t change. Only technology changes. What sold back in ancient Egypt still sells today.

    I’m particularly tired of hearing that EVERYTHING is going online and ALL the old media will die. What’s going to happen is that a generation of copywriters and ad people will limit their study to online selling and when they finally discover that other media still work, they won’t have the skills to function. Then guys like me will get even more business.

    I’ve worked in nearly every medium – TV, radio, outdoor, print, direct mail, online, you name it – and I can tell you it all works the same way. There are differences in execution and delivery, but the core of selling is always the same.

    [...] 117 tested advertising headlines that made money [...]

  11. Nervous Exhaustion Symptoms on Apr 20th, 2010 3:41 pm
  12. The post here is not just good but also the people who’s commenting because of their additional great thoughts to be said like Dean Rieck for instance. Hope to read more blog post as great as this and comments from others as well.

  13. John Anderson on Jul 25th, 2010 9:39 pm
  14. I wrote an article giving my take on Igors thoughtful comment:

    http://conversionmasters.com.au/branding-vs-direct-response-controversy-erupts/

    Hope this adds something to folks reading.

    Thank you Dean for such a useful checklist of headlines. Definitely one for my swipe file.

  15. David Thomasson on Sep 1st, 2010 10:29 am
  16. In “Rocky” (the original), Rocky has begun dating Adrian. One morning Rocky stops by the meat packing plant to see Paulie, Adrian’s brother. Paulie is asking Rocky about the relationship …

    Pauley: Ya really like her?

    Rocky: Sure I like her.

    Paulie: What’s the attraction? I don’t see it.

    Rocky: I dunno — she fills gaps.

    Paulie: What gaps?

    Rocky: She got gaps, I got gaps — together we fill the gaps.

    Ad headlines that work are the ones that offer a relationship, and relationship that work always fill gaps. The trick, of course, is to find those gaps.

    “Do you make mistakes in English?”

    “How to win friends and influence people.”

    “Lose ugly fat — an average of 7 pounds a month.

    They’re all about gaps.

  17. Dean Rieck on Sep 1st, 2010 11:08 am
  18. @David: A good example from a great movie. Thanks.

    [...] 117 Tested Advertising Headlines that Made Money, [...]

  19. Edwin on Sep 19th, 2012 10:55 pm
  20. I have the book, but I am glad you listed them here for easy reference. It is fascinating how succinct their research was to even develop these highly impact full headlines.