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National Mail Order Association (NMOA)
Direct Marketing
and Mail Order

Alan Rosenspan's "Improve Your Response" Newsletter
August 2002
Issue #14: Hog Wild Edition!


• 1. Best Headlines

• 2. Most Unusual Headlines

• 3. Most Headlines

• 4.Other Excellent Headlines

• 5. Winning Headline

• 6. The Real Headline

• 7. Canadian Copywriters Protest


Dear Friends,

Last issue, I gave you the visual for a famous Harley Davidson ad, and I invited you to provide the headline.

The visual was a motorcycle parked inside a church, right at the altar. Light is streaming in from the stained glass windows, and the whole feeling of the ad is spiritual, even heavenly.

You were invited to come up with your own headline – and so far, we’ve received 59 of them from 7 different countries.

They ranged from the sacred to the profane. But I was amazed at the quality of your thinking and your creativity!

(Silly me – I should have used one of my current assignments for this exercise. I would have gotten some great ideas!)

We also received a very strong protest letter from a group of copywriters. But I’ll share that with you in a few minutes.

Your Answers

As you know, I promised that the best headline would win a free copy of my book, "Pushing the Envelope."

But picking the best headline was difficult, because there were so many excellent entries. Let me give you all the finalists first, before I reveal which one was the winner.

Please keep in mind: I chose the headlines that I liked the best. Yours may have been just as good, even if I didn’t select it.

The Best Headlines
And on the 7th day, he raised a little Hell
-- Louis-Hugo Marchand

-- Colleen Jackson
-- Grant Johnson

Harley-Davidson: romance may fade, but true love endures.
-- Christy Paine

God Parking
-- Pedro Urquidi

Hog Heaven
-- Nina Barretta

Saint Harley
-- Christy Paine

Even God Wants One
-- Joanne Dawson

Guess who else wants to ride a Harley?
-- Dan Skoglund

The Most Unusual Headlines
"... You may ride the bride."
-- Dave Crago

If it breaks, make it bigger. If it sticks out, chrome it.
-- Paul Hayes

It's street legal, but is it legal to marry your motorcycle?
- CFray

The Most Headlines
Who Said There Was No Sanctity Left?
Harley Davidson: Your Savior From The Ordinary Motorcycle
Riding. It's Like Going Straight To Heaven
The Father, The Son And The Holy Ride
Praise Has Taken On A Whole New Meaning
Confirming Your Faith In The Extraordinary
And, On The Eighth Day...
Harley-Davidson: the perfect marriage between raw beauty and functionality.
Harley-Davidson: it began as lust, turned into passion and developed into a lifelong love affair
Harley-Davidson: it's time to fuel the passion.
The flowing curves, the visual muscle - a beautiful marriage.
You and the HOG: A Joyous Union
I love you because you are the one that completes me.
Harley-Davidson: romance may fade, but true love endures.
I promise to cherish and protect you...on good roads and bad.
The adventure begins...with passion, with knowledge and with an edge.
I promise to be the suspension that you count on, the frame that you lean on and the wings that allow you to fly.
There's a Harley to match your passion!
Fear of Commitment? Harley-Davidson will take you places you've never dreamed you could go.
-- Christy Paine (and her boss)

Other Excellent Headlines

Only He has greater power
-- Loretta Floyd You can cancel the

Mercedes Benz request!
-- Grant Johnson"Til death do us part."

"With this bike, I thee wed."
-- tgortsema

Harley Davidson ...Hallowed Be Thy Name.
-- John Caparoon

When you're THIS GOOD, you NEED a Harley!

EVEN a man of GOD needs to sin a little
Excitement without breaking any commandments
What to do when sinning is off-limits
-- Chantal Brunelle

A Heavenly Experience
-- cfreci

Holy Smokes! A gift from Heaven.
-- stacey.e.silverman
‘til death do us part
-- John Heckman

"I Do."
"I promise to love, honor, and ride."
-- Julie DeFelice

Sacrifice Nothing

Sunday Best
A Match Made in Heaven
-- Nina Barretta

On the wings of angels.
For the ride of your life!
-- Melody Tull

The Forbidden Fruit
Who said Sunday is a day of rest?
"And on the eighth day..."
Thou Shalt Not Worship Idol Gods
-- Colleen.Jackson

"Thank You"
Can you get closer to heaven?
Harley Davidson - your weekly rite
-- Mark Thompson (a Ducati man)
A Match Made in Heaven...
You and Harley Forever...
-- Elyse Benae

-- Monique Mazejka

On a Harley, you can go anywhere
"I’ll be back in 5 years. I’ve gone to confession"
-- dgomez

What's Heaven without a little Hell?
"Heaven" on wheels is also right
Be careful what you pray for...
-- Louis-Hugo Marchand

Get The Spirit
-- Brian Wagner

We Confess, Nobody does bikes better
Well ... almost a religious experience.
-- Dan Breau

"I Do"
-- Rick

Come to free us
- Lúcia

Holy Roller.

-- kati

When your destination is as important as your journey...
-- Grace Cohen

WWJD? He'd Ride.
A Marriage Made In Heaven
"I Do".
-- Dave Crago

To Have and To Hold
-- Mark Severance

And finally, the Winning Headline…

"Reborn to be Wild"

Submitted by Randy Lauer. Congratulations, Randy – you will receive a free copy of my book in September.

The Real Headline
The headline that Harley Davidson used was as follows:

"You Commit 4 out Of 7 of The Deadly Sins Just Looking at it"

The advertisement won a number of advertising awards – but here’s the point: Your headlines were just as good as their headline. Some were even better.

How were you able to come up with so many "better-than-award-winning" headlines?

Easy – once you have a great visual, the headline practically writes itself. And sometimes the best solution to an advertising or direct marketing problem is a visual one.

Or at least, that’s what I thought – until I received the following

7 French Canadian Copywriters Protest!
I received this protest e-mail, signed by seven copywriters from
a large and well-respected direct marketing agency in Montreal.

Mr. Rosenspan,

While reading the most recent "Improve Your Response" newsletter, your Harley Davidson Contest really caught our attention.

More specifically, the reasoning that "This exercise proves that visuals are much more important than headlines" troubles us. While we respect that your theories and methods have obviously lead to great success, this thinking does a great disservice to our industry.

Many in the direct world - both agency and client side - do not understand the concept of a concept, and see creative executions as two distinct parts: words and pictures. Of course, those responsible for taking a strategy and making it sing understand that the visual and copy are born from a bigger idea - a concept developed prior to any execution.

If what you’re trying to get across were true, copywriters would become obsolete in conceptual circles, and called upon to provide copy decks only.

Art directors, as a result, could look for nice pictures in stock photo catalogues and wait for on-strategy headlines to write themselves. This point may seem extreme, however the one you’re trying to make is not only dangerous, it leads to half-baked, mediocre work.

It also raises questions as to whether you believe that it’s possible to
have success developing a copy-driven concept. Your New England Funds campaign would indicate that you would -- or did that campaign not push the envelope?

So, Mr. Rosenspan, are visuals really much more important than headlines? C’mon, we’re confident you can come up with something better than that.

My Response
I was a little taken aback by the e-mail – it almost seemed like a petition. So I wrote back immediately.

Dear Friends,

First and above all, let me apologize.

I too am a copywriter. I too place great value on the power of words. I would never suggest that copy is not a critical part of any communication - advertisement, direct mail package, or website.

Furthermore, I completely agree with you. What you call a concept - I call an idea. And an idea is far more important than any visual or any copy.

My little exercise gives people the visual - but I now realize that I am really giving people the idea. And once you have your idea, the words come easily.

So thank you for pointing this out to me - perhaps it wasn't as clear as I intended.

I attach an article that I hope you will find interesting, called "Letter to a New Copywriter."

All the best,


So what do you think?
Please e-mail me if you have any strong feelings about this issue. And if you are an art director or a copywriter, please let me know.

And by the way, if you would also like a copy of the article, "Letter to a New Copywriter" just e-mail me at

Forward and Backward, and a Few Words about Privacy

You are welcome to forward this to anyone else who you believe may be interested.

To unsubscribe, just send me an e-mail that says "Remove" and I will understand. And once again, please let me remind you that your name and/or e-mail address will never be shared, sold, circulated, or passed along to anyone else. Thank you.


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