The best way to write an opening paragraph
According to the late great David Ogilvy, five times as many people read the headline than any other part of an advertisement.
That’s because the headline helps people to decide whether to continue reading or move on - and most people move on.
Therefore, the headline must grab your target audience pull them in to the rest of your ad if you want to have an opportunity to sell your products or services.
After the headline, what is the next most important piece of ad copy?
Some claim it’s the postscript; the P.S.
They say a prospect will read the headline, then read the P.S., and then decide whether to read the rest of the ad.
That may be true, but is the P.S. really the second most important ad copy element? I’m not so sure.
It seems logical that, if the headline gets the attention of the intended reader and persuades them to read the next line, then the next most important part of the ad is the next line.
If you are writing a personal communication like a sales letter, then the salutation comes after the headline.
If you do use a salutation, and you have the recipient’s name, use it. If not, just write, “Dear Friend”.
Having said that, the opening paragraph is often omitted - for example, in magazine ads or in online media.
In that case, the next block of copy after the headline is the opening paragraph.
And there’s a simple but effective way to write it.
It’s tempting to whittle off a load of benefits in the first part of an ad.
And big promises are, of course, a critical aspect of sales copy.
Yet, if you don’t prove that what you are promising is true, it won’t have any impact.
When it comes to writing an opening paragraph, you can make a big promise and simultaneously prove it by using an ‘IF... THEN’ framework.
The formula is simple:
A reasonably easy requirement, followed by a strong promise.
Here are some examples from Gary Halbert ads:
“If you’d like to lose weight... for real... and... do it extremely fast (up to 10 pounds of fat and fluid in 2 days... then... up to 1 pound a day until you reach your goal) this is going to be the most exciting message you’ll ever read!”
“If you are already a professional model, or, if you’d like to be, this is going to be the most exciting message you will ever read. On the other hand, if you want to be a model... but... you don’t really have what it takes... this message can save you thousands of dollars and a great deal of misery and heartbreak.”
“If you are interested in living a very long life... and... staying young and healthy... this will be the most important message you will ever read.”
This works by making the reader qualify themselves to receive the big promise.
“I’ll show you how to lose 20 pounds”
BEFORE (reader response):
“If you’ve tried every diet under the sun… but you still want to lose weight… I’ll show you how to drop 20 pounds”
“I have done tried every diet under the sun - let’s see what this person has to say”
Ok, so there you have it…
If you want to sell more stuff, this is a great way to write an opening paragraph - the second most important copy element of an advertisement.