Spam, Glorious Spam

It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money…

David Ogilvy

It could be the subject line of the email or the headline of your letter. Both have the highest impact on the reader, well errrm reading more. If the headline doesn’t captivate the reader, then your efforts are dead.

I love spam in the same way that crash investigators love wrecked vehicles. They teach you most things you need about how bad work fails. Most spam headlines are written to fool spam filters. This is all very well and good until you get to the final triage, the human BS filter.

If you had to pick out 3 headlines from the following list, which would you pick?

Spam Headlines
My personal curiosity would go to :

  1. “Save 32%”, very specific.
  2. “No experience …” is probably going to try and get me onto a low effort money making scheme. Just a hunch !
  3. “Want to sell your timeshare” is not relevant to me, I don’t have a timeshare. But, it is specific if you did.

For the next part of the test let us who sent these. In email marketing, you have two things to filter; subject and sender.

Spam Folder


  1. Has well and truly stood on the trap door.
  2. Career Trends … not so sure now, maybe worth a further peak?
  3. Timeshare Options?

This is not just about spam. How many other organisations waste their money on poor headlines? You can send me out a million messages with the headline “Pharmacy: helloo from” and it will get sent to spam the same number of times. There are a great number of emails blunderbussed to the world with inane dullness like “A message from our CEO” or “Best in category”.

If you put in some time and got to talk to the reader in person, how would that help?

One of the best headlines EVER :

“Can you help me?”

I have been guilty of using this very message as well as “I need YOUR help”. Both worked a treat.

Try personalising it:

“Ross, can you help me?”


“Ross, I need YOUR help”.

These are not clever headlines, but they do work where appropriate.

John Caples stated that 80% of the effort was in the headline, Ogilvy was a big follower of his work. None of this is new knowledge. It all still applies.


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