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Why Did David Ogilvy Rewrite His World Famous Headline 104 Times?

5 headline lessons to copy from the GREATEST copywriter

Photo by Rebeca Calavera on Unsplash

104 times — before David Ogilvy, renowned copywriter, was satisfied with the winning headline he wanted.

A little background:

In 1958, Rolls Royce had established itself as a luxury car but wanted to re-launch its product, having to compete with the likes of Ford. The account came to David Ogilvy.

David Ogilvy is a university in himself when it comes to copywriting. His theories and teachings still stand the test of time and are being taught in every college to date. It was as if he knew his audience inside out.

With immense research that involved talking to the engineers, reading manuals, technical documents, and relentless editing, he finally came up with what is a masterpiece.

The headline was:

“At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this New Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”

Image credit: Pintrest

Many have studied and dissected this article and have found an immense amount of learning left to learn and imbibe.

Here are 5 learnings of mine.

1. No matter how seasoned you are, in order to make a masterpiece, you need to slog like a novice.

David was a maestro at that time, but he did not shy away from toiling hard.

He read every article, magazine, and technical document in order to understand the product and choose the bit he wanted in the limelight.

What we see is the tip of the iceberg — success. What we don’t see is the huge chunk of hard work that is beneath the water.

What to copy from the Copywriter:

Learn. Embrace. Imbibe. The moment you say 'I know it all', that is the death of your growth.

No matter how big an expert you are, have the humility to keep your mind open like a rookie.

2. 80% of your success depends upon the headline of your story.

Bet your money on it.

I cannot tell you how crucial this is. No wonder David Ogilvy racked his brain so many times to get it right.

It was relevant then, but it is more so today, in this new age of content influx — where so many other options always surround the reader.

What to copy from the Copywriter:

Do not publish your story till you KNOW that the headline is something that is going to make the readers click your story.

But be aware — clickable, not clickbait. There’s a very thin line in between.

3. Editing is the key that leads you to the 'AHA' moment of your work.

The first draft is always shitty. What you witness is the magic of editing.

It is not the writing that makes a writer famous, it’s the editing.

When people talk about a writer, they say they write so naturally. BS. They should say they edit so naturally! Because all that you see is far, far away from the original dump it was.

What to copy from the Copywriter:

Do not concentrate on writing. Focus on the editing. Chisel out the rough edges to create your masterpiece.

4. There is always something on a topic that nobody has talked about. Your job — find that 'something'.

Do you know what is common among the best stories, articles, ads, etc.?

They tell you something you haven’t heard or thought about before.

At the time of the ad, when other luxury car companies were talking about style, comfort, and class, David wanted something different for Rolls Royce.

And he settled for the peace and quiet — a virtue the rich can afford. And he had caught the right nerve.

[I do not want to taint the ode to a master by citing my example, but it is solely for understanding. I recently posted a story on writing advice. Frankly, it was the same thing you encounter in countless other stories. The only reason it went viral is that it was never told that way — in a sexy way.]

What to copy from the Copywriter:

To stand out in the crowd, you need to do DIFFERENT. Find that, and you are a star.

5. Redefine 'language'. Speak not in perfect grammar; speak vernacular — your reader's language.

You can't speak Greek if your audience speaks French.

It is not about how immaculate the grammar is; it is whether you speak the audience's language. And that is what David Ogilvy mastered.

As if he eavesdropped on people and knew exactly what they want.

He not only had a deep understanding of the product but also knew his audience in and out. That made his copies so relatable, persuasive, and compelling.

What to copy from the Copywriter:

Learn to speak your reader's mind. That happens when you profile your reader. Don't write what you have to say. Instead, write what your readers want to hear.


A single event can induce so many thoughts. That's the power of a great piece of work.

Thankfully, all the skills can be acquired with a bit of conscious effort. What we must strive for is to upgrade ourselves at each step.

I hope this story inspires you to become the better writer that you are.

Before you wander off to some other place:

I have some great freebies for you to hone your writing skills. Grab them here.



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