Value of Good Titles in Advertising

Every experienced evangelist has heard new converts testify to the arrestive power of some title or titles.

By C. ANGUS REEVES, Evangelist, London, England

Every experienced evangelist has heard new converts testify to the arrestive power of some title or titles, just as did two of my converts after a recent baptism in London: "It was your title 'The Crisis of the Nations' that first attracted my attention to your message and put me in touch with the advent church." "I began to attend the meet­ings through seeing an arresting topic adver­tised on a busy London thoroughfare. The title 'Britain Beware !' aroused my curiosity. I went to that meeting, and I have never missed a meeting since." This proves that the choice of titles and captions is a matter of the utmost importance. Titles are really the evangelist's first contact with the public. They are the bait we use in fishing for souls, and they often make or mar the success of an effort. The title is the most outstanding feat­ure of our evangelistic advertising. And con­stant search for good and better titles will be repaid in larger attendance.

Although written of magazine titles, these words of G. J. Matson, well-known author and journalist, are equally applicable to the titles we use as evangelists : "A London magazine editor said to me once, 'Ninety per cent of the manuscripts that pass through my hands bear titles that beg for an immediate rejection slip.' Another told me, 'I never look beyond the title and the first paragraph, if these fail to interest me.' " Perhaps this is one of the rea­sons why there are vacant chairs at some of our meetings. Matson continues:

"What is a good title? I would define it in this way. A good title is a few words, put together in an original form, giving a fair indication of the con­tents of an article. . . Notice the underlined words. They are the important parts of the definition. There should be brevity, originality, and aptness. No titles are thought out in a couple of minutes. I often spend as much time in evolving a title as in writing the article itself. But I am convinced that it pays. Good titles attract. They withhold just sufficient to pique the reader's appetite. When you find it difficult to evolve a good title, seek the aid of alliteration."

A good title will be arresting, compelling, thought-provoking. Generally speaking, the main title should be brief, comprising no more than four or five words. Occasionally I have found that one word as the main title, featured in big, bold type, has been very effective. The subtitle may be longer, and should usually be of a more spiritual or religious tone than the main title.

There is a danger of exaggeration and de­ception in the captions we use. It is possible to advertise beyond our ability to live up to the advertisement. We should not attach a title to a subject to which it has little or no refer­ence. Let us be honest with our congregation. Let us speak to the title advertised, or we shall lose the confidence of the people.

Our titles should say just enough to arouse interest and curiosity. Therefore it is often 'best to express the main title in the form of a question. All tendency to "preach" on the handbill, or answer questions to be discussed, should be avoided. It is not good to follow the same stereotyped order of titles or subjects in each effort. As keen students of current events in the light of the word of God, we must be constantly ready to connect our titles to up-to-the-minute happenings, and teach "present truth" more effectively.

The following list of topics used in a recent effort were responsible for drawing a good attendance to hear the message. The main titles are in capitals, followed by the subtitles, with explanatory notes in brackets.

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By C. ANGUS REEVES, Evangelist, London, England

October 1940

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