Are eye-catching headlines better advertising?


Everyone always talks about how advertisers use language to catch the attention of the reader. If you keep track, you can watch yourself do it – being sucked into the tabloid news of The Sun or The Metro because even though it might not be as impartial as the BBC, it makes it sound a lot more exciting.


For example, with regard to the recent discovery of the poor human rights of the North Korean prison camps, the BBC reported that the UN has written a report stating that the international community must do something about the crimes against humanity and ‘unspeakable atrocities’ that have been committed. It then gives s brief explanation of what the report says, and goes on to say that China does would ‘not help resolve the human rights situation’. If you want to read more of this article, click here.


In contrast, the Daily Mail opted for the more evocative, ‘Children were ripped to pieces by dogs at North Korean prison camp and buried alive, says former guard who has fled the country’. When it goes on to mention the UN report, it spices it up with ‘U.N. report accuses North Korea of acts bordering on genocide.’ The Daily Mail also predicts that there are 80,000-120,000 political prisoners in North Korea, something which clearly the BBC does not feel able to report since it is such a vague number that the Daily Mail does not even provide any proof for.


We all know that the Daily Mail is more sensationalist than the BBC, this is not a revelation. However, when Luke Lewis (Editor and Founder of UK Buzzfeed) recently came to give a talk at the Media Society, he seemed to suggest that because these exciting, eye-catching headlines get more views (or more ‘clicks’) that means that they are more successful.


I, however, would dispute this. Although I am sure that more people go on the Daily Mail website each day than perhaps check other news websites like The Times or The Guardian (since the Daily Mail actually makes a profit even though it doesn’t have a paywall – check out this article if you don’t believe me) it seems that to find out reliable, backed-up news, people still turn to the BBC. Whilst the BBC Breaking News twitter has 8.9 million followers, the Daily Mail has a relatively poor 526,000.


Thus, it seems that people are still turning to less sensationalist papers to get accurate news.


So, what does this mean for advertising and marketing?


It means that although using quick, eye-grabbing taglines and slogans is important (because it is not as though the BBC or The Guardian don’t use these!) BUT it is just as important to have good content. Although having a good tag line or header might pull someone in, it is the content that is going to make them stay. Advertising isn’t all about sensationalism – it needs to have substance too!


By Camilla Rees