That Most Important Line In Your Commercial

“It was the day my grandmother exploded.”

That’s how The Crow Road by Iain Banks opens. The narrator has returned home for a funeral; Chapter One begins in the chapel of a crematorium in Scotland.

Although this is from a novel and not a commercial, it’s a great example of an opening line that compels the reader — or listener, or viewer — to stick around to hear what you’ve got to say.

In a print ad, it’s the headline. In a radio or television commercial, it’s the first sentence of your ad. Copywriting guru Dan O’Day calls it the “commercial for the commercial.”

If your opening line is good enough, the viewer or listener will stay put to hear the rest of your sales message.

The opening line has to grab the your target’s attention, and give them a reason to continue to pay attention. You either need to surprise them, intrigue them, or offer them, up front, a significant benefit.

If all you’ve got to say is “Family owned and operated since 1991,” they’ll change the station.

advertising lesson: your opening line matters

Photo by SeanPavonePhoto

That’s Copywriting Lesson #1 of The Crow Road. The first line was so good that I absolutely had to keep reading until I found out exactly how Grandma blew up. It took 22 pages to get to the detonation. 

I was hoping for an epic blast, but the actual grandmother-explosion turned out to be a minor pop.

Before I got to Page 50, I put the book down. I never opened it again.

This brings us to Copywriting Lesson #2: Your opening line is a promise, and you’d better deliver on it.

As you read this article, somebody is watching television somewhere in the United States. The show they’re watching has just gone into a commercial break. In the next five seconds, they will decide to either

1. Pay attention to the first ad,


2. Tune the whole thing out and update their Facebook status.

If it’s your commercial they’re watching… how strong is your opening line?

Question: What’s the best opening line you’ve ever seen or heard? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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