Making headlines: 19 print ads with attention grabbing copy


When it comes to print advertising, I am a sucker for the old-style: riveting headline that usually brings a smile to your face. There was a time when this was standard – early ‘90s, perhaps, where the print ads almost followed a format. There was a clever headline, followed by long copy, with a last line that tied up with the headline in some manner. The division of labour between Art & Copy was clear. And then came the era of visual print ads were that line blurred and it was all about telling a story visually.

Sometime back, Scamp wrote about how to write headlines, quoting the classic Timberland and Porsche ads. Advertising for The Economist embodied this style with ‘I never read The Economist’ being the most popular one. Here are a few examples of ads that essentially rely on a powerful headline to lure the reader into finding out more. Not all the work shown here would classify as great or classic- this list is no patch on the work featured in The Copy Book – but worth having a dekho.

1. 88.6FM

There is a market for FM Radio listeners who hate the over-exposed popular music. This appeals to the their head-banging tastes perhaps. Michael Bolton could also be a logical punching bag for this kind of stuff.

88.6Fm-2 Agency: FCB, Austria. Rest of the ads are here.

2. Becks Beer

This is classic Neil French advertising. One may quibble about the stretched link to the proposition of ‘expensive beer’ but no gainsaying that it keeps you riveted. Don’t miss the droll humour in the last 2 paragraphs. Becks-incompetent

3. Dragon Lee Chinese Van

This is an old campaign from the Trikaya Grey stable, written by Freddy Birdy. During those days, Freddy Birdy and his Art partner Naved were a much sought after team. The story goes that one of them had street side food from this Chinese van in Delhi and had food poisoning. As a tribute they created these ads.

Dragon Lee-fast

Dragon Lee-water

Dragon lee-Dara Singh

To know more about Dara Singh, see here.

4. The Economist

Everyone has their favourite Economist headline. Here are 3 of my favourites.

Economist - err
Mind expanding


5. De Beers

This is a 2001 ad, created by JWT, New York.. The Creaive Director, Chris D’Rozario was the one of the many stalwarts of Trikaya Grey during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.


6. Action Aid

These set of ads, released in 2005 have been wrongly credited to the legendary Indra Sinha. Great copy nevertheless.

indra sinha one

indra sinha two

7. Lamborghini

I had written about these set of ads earlier.I thought this brought out the speed angle beautifully. Combined with the art direction & photography, has the right amount of sophistication.


8. Mini

Does this fit in under great Art or great Copy? Both, I guess.

Mini Letters-F

Agency: Jung von Matt/Alster, Hamburg, Germany. Rest of the ads are here.

9. Premiere Pay TV

This proposition has been used in several campaigns but this headline combined with a poster-like visual is a stand out for me.

Premiere-toilet cleaner

10. Volkswagen

The 60-year celebrations of the Volkswagen included these set of ads. Guaranteed to appeal both the dad and the son.


Agency: DDB, Paris. See the entire campaign here.

11. Star TV: the power of TV

This 2005 ad from Star TV promotes the power of TV. I guess this is meant for advertising trade publications. Do they need convincing about the power of TV?

Power of TV

12. Cancer Patients Aid Foundation

This deservingly won a metal at the Cannes in 2003.

Cancer cures

13. Mauritius Tourism

I wish I could find copies of the classic ads from Trikaya Grey, Enterprise Nexus, Ambience and others from the early ‘90s. The ads for Grindwell Norton, Mauritius Tourism, NECC are timeless. You find some in this Classic Indian print ads set.


Personally speaking, I will always have a soft corner for this medium, irrespective of today’s pressures to create a surround campaign with emphasis on online, ambient etc. Thanks to all those who played a part in creating these print ads.

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By bhatnaturally

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Ex-ad man. Love advertising, Apple, tech, digital, design and all things creative. VP - MarCom, @Robosoft. Views personal. See disclaimer for more.

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