How To Model The “Best” Headline Ever Written

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Copy is at the heart of marketing. If we can’t craft our message to what prospects need to hear, all we’re doing is wasting time and money.

That’s why it’s so important to get it right.

And when it comes to getting it right, there are few better ways to do so than by following in the footsteps of the best, most proven copywriters in the world. Among the very best of the best; the legendary Gary Halbert.

Though he passed away in 2007, Halbert is regarded as the single highest earning copywriter of all time, with over $1,000,000,000 in revenue generated from his sales letters.

So when Halbert said something was worth noting, we’d all be wise to listen. And according to him, the best headline he ever read was:


Mrs. Ernest Borgnine Agrees To Give Away 100,000 Free Samples Of Her New Perfume Just To Prove It Is Safe To Wear In Public!

Wife of famous actor swears under oath that her new perfume does not contain an illegal sexual stimulant.”

This was a full page ad which ran in the Los Angeles Times in 1982.

The ad brought more than 7,000 people flocking to the perfume launch at the Century Plaza Hotel on a weekday afternoon.

The launch was so successful that it was even mentioned in Time Magazine, and generated millions of dollars in unsolicited purchase orders from the largest department stores in the world.

All without a single product image.

So why did this “free offer” ad work so well? And how can we model it?

Emotional connection:  Everyone wants to be more attractive. The prospect of getting a free sample of a perfume created by a celebrity was irresistible to most women back then. 

What is the big benefit that your prospects dream of attaining?

Celebrity: The offer was tied to a known and, at the time, popular celebrity. (How can we use celebrity/influencers in our free offer ads?)

What influencers or celebrities can you align with your free offer ads?

Scarcity: The offer was limited to 100,000 free samples.

How can you create legitimate scarcity in your own free offers?

Specificity: The offer was limited to a very specific number of samples; 100,000, at a very specific time, in a very specific place.

How specific is your offer? Will someone know how to act if they want to take advantage of your offer?

Uniqueness: The product was new, and only from the Borgnines.

What’s new or unique about your own offer? What can it do that your competition can not?

Provocative: “Safe to wear in public” and “Does not contain an illegal sexual stimulant” create intrigue and buzz. Cab drivers were overheard talking to people about the ad and wondering whether there was an illegal sexual stimulant in the perfume or not.  

Is there anything about your offer that’d have people buzzing and talking about your product? 

Remember the Coinbase QR code from the Super Bowl? The buzz was so big from that single ad that the traffic crashed the Coinbase app! Now that’s buzz!

If you can create these elements in your own copy, you’ve got an almost guaranteed home run on your hands!


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