Direct Response Legend Gary Halbert wrote about this “Sickening Statistic” back in the early 1980s 👇

You want to know what some people would consider a sickening statistic? Here it is:


— Gary Halbert, The Boron Letters 

You can find this chapter from Halbert’s Boron Letters and hundreds of other must-read Direct Response masterpieces at The Gary Halbert Letter archive here 👇

Don’t miss all these installments of the Gary Halbert Letter

Now, maybe you’re wondering:

Is Gary Halbert’s “Bible vs. Enquirer” statistic 100% accurate?

Who knows?

I’ll let you run the math on that.

But there’s no doubt about it:

If you’ve ever been in US supermarket checkout line, you’ve definitely seen the National Enquirer:

And the Enquirer (especially in its heyday) is read by hundreds of millions of people with each and every weekly issue.

And most important from a Direct Response principles standpoint…

The National Enquirer has mastered the art of:

  1. Capturing attention from the broadest possible market
  2. and converting that attention into action

Let’s explore how to apply this to your Direct Response Video ads…

Direct Response Video Ad Tactics from The National Enquirer

In just a moment we’ll get to two (2) of the very specific tactics Gary extracted from the National Enquirer which are going to help you to:

  1. Create new “breakthrough” winning ads faster, stay one step ahead of your competitors & come up with novel, “outside-the-box” hooks & angles for your ads on YouTube, TikTok, Meta, etc - or ANY platform…
  2. Eliminate creative fatigue with a never-ending supply of new hooks & angles to test

But a couple things before we get into all this…

First, every Enquirer cover is a masterclass in getting as many people as possible to:

🛑 STOP what they’re doing…
📖 Pick up the magazine…
💳 …And BUY.

As a Direct Response marketer, there’s a LOT to learn here and apply to your campaigns, no matter what platforms you’re running on (video, print, email audio/radio, whatever…).

Now of course, when you see an issue of the Enquirer in the supermarket, the familiar images of celebrities definitely catch your eye. No doubt about that.


But what really sets the “hook” and creates an insatiable desire for more information…

…are the HEADLINES.

Here’s what Gary has to say about this:

Read all the Gary Halbert Letter episodes here

“And what do Enquirer writers excel at above all else? You guessed it -- HEADLINES. Their headlines are so powerful, they have so much "grabbing power" that, every week, people who have sworn they'll never again buy such a publication, are almost forced to purchase it in spite of themselves.”
- Gary Halbert - read the full letter here

A good headline will:

🖐️ Grab attention
💡 Instantly create curiosity
🚀 Drive action

…All with just a few carefully chosen words.

But maybe you’re wondering…

“Why would “headlines” matter when it comes to Direct Response Video ads?”

Great question.

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Why Your “Hook” is Your Video Ad’s “Headline”

Imagine you're in line at the supermarket, and a jaw-dropping headline from the Enquirer makes you pause and reach for the magazine.

Your YouTube ad's "hook" - those all-important first 5-10 seconds - needs to have the same effect:

🛑 It should stop viewers in their tracks
🚫 Make them forget about the "skip ad" button
🎥 And get them to stay engaged long enough to hear the complete “sales argument” you present in the video

And not only that…

Your ad’s ability to capture and retain user attention past the first 5 and 10 seconds of your ad is also crucial to driving down your YouTube ad traffic costs:

Hooks and the “Mystery Metric” that Drives Your YouTube Ad Traffic Costs

On the Google Ad chart above we have:

  • Cost of traffic (Avg CPM, or average cost per 1000 impressions)
  • Our “Mystery Metric”

Notice anything strange?

📉 When our “Mystery Metric” goes DOWN, cost of traffic goes UP ⬆️.

And vice versa...

📈 When our “Mystery Metric” goes UP, cost of traffic goes DOWN ⬇️.

It’s a nearly perfect inverse relationship.

And what is this “Mystery Metric?

It’s “Engagements”: defined by Google as 10 seconds of view time or a click on the ad

  • Why does Google use this metric?
  • And how can you leverage this for your own ads’ success?

Read the full breakdown in this VidTao blog post.

So with all that said, what specifics can we extract from the National Enquirer’s success to boost your own ads’ success on YouTube & other video ad platforms?

Gary Halbert’s got some advice for you on that…

Tactic #1: Use these 2 Headline Ingredients

In this blog post episode Gary Halbert says these 3 approaches are some of the most powerful ways to frame your headline:

  1. 📰 News
  2. 🎁 Benefit
  3. 🔄 Do both 1 & 2 in the same headline.

Check out Guthy Renker’s Proactiv anti-acne product for great examples of this approach applied to Direct Response Video Ads.

Proactiv works with A-list celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and many more. But let’s check out this Proactiv ad from Jessica Simpson to see this approach in action:

Let’s take a closer look:

📰 News:

  • The ad opens with a shocking revelation from Jessica Simpson herself: "If you're like me, your skin is far from perfect. I've struggled with difficult skin for years."
  • Coming from a celebrity known for her beauty, this confession is unexpected and newsworthy.
  • It instantly grabs the viewer's attention by humanizing Jessica and creating a relatable problem that the viewer likely shares.
  • The news? Even someone as famous & gorgeous as Jessica Simpson has battled bad skin.

  • 🎁 Benefit:

  • Jessica then pivots to the amazing benefit, saying "...but now I have clear skin I can depend on" thanks to Proactiv.
  • The impact of this promised benefit is amplified because of the surprising "news" of Jessica's past skin problems.
  • If Proactiv can take someone from embarrassingly bad acne to flawless, camera-ready skin? The implied benefit for the average viewer is immense.

  • Just like a juicy National Enquirer headline, this unexpected problem-solution story arc instantly hooks the viewer and creates an insatiable desire to hear the rest of the story.

    ☝️ Leading with the "news" of a celebrity's private pain

    ✌️ Highlighting the product as the life-changing "benefit"

    Can you think of ways to test this out in your next video ad “hook”?

    Here’s a quick example from inside VidTao YouTube Ad Library.

    This time it’s Onnit, working with Joe Rogan on this YouTube ad with nearly $300k estimated total adspend:

    "I always take Alpha Brain. It seems to fire up your brain at a higher RPM level."               Source: VidTao YouTube Ad library

    “…But what if I can’t afford Celebrity Talent?”

    This Celebrity News / Private Pain + Benefit approach - pulled straight from National Enquirer headlines - might work great if you’ve got the funds to invest in hiring A-List Celebrity Talent…

    …But what if you don’t have that kind of cash laying around?

    The answer to your predicament lies again with The National Enquirer.

    You just need to step back a few decades…

    Because back in the 1970s & 80s, while celebrity news was indeed a huge part of the Enquirer’s appeal, you’d see A LOT more straightforward news + benefit headlines.

    Like this gem from 1979:

    👫🍏👽🛸 Now let’s set aside that UNBELIEVABLY good main headline for a moment…

    …And zoom in on those side headlines:

    • "New Hope for Millions With High Blood Pressure" (news of a breakthrough solution plus the benefit of better health)
    • "How You Can Be Superhealthy - And Live Longer" (news you can achieve an extraordinary level of health, with the benefit of longevity)

    News + Benefit.

    Any of these headlines could be adapted into a video ad hook to stop scrollers in their tracks.

    Wrapping up + Next Steps…

    This email is already pretty long… So we’ll dive into the #2 National Enquirer Gary Halbert tactic in tomorrow’s email…

    …Plus we’re going to look INSIDE the National Enquirer, to what was essentially the “Facebook Ads” of direct response offers in the 1970s & 80s:

    Why all this talk about ads that are 50+ years old?

    We’re not on some nostalgia kick here…

    Keeping with today’s theme - it has everything to do with another quote from Gary Halbert.

    …All about why becoming a “student of markets” is THE evergreen “make money” skill.

    (…NOT copywriting, media buying or marketing tactics.)

    -Gary Halbert, The Boron Letters Chapter 5

    “Now, pay attention. The very first thing you must come to realize is that you must become a "student of markets". Not products. Not techniques. Not copywriting. Not how to buy space or whatever. Now, of course, all of these things are important and you must learn about them, but, the first and the most important thing you must learn is what people want to buy.”
    - Gary Halbert -
    The Boron Letters

    We’re going to get into all that in tomorrow’s email.

    PLUS - you’re going to see a case study of how a struggling 23 year-old college student went all-in and invested his entire $20k savings on a single National Enquirer ad…

    …And created a $100 million per year Direct Response Video Ad Empire as a result.

    Stay tuned!

    The VidTao Team

    PS - Go here to claim a Free 7-Day Trial of all-new VidTao 2.0 YouTube ad library (complete with 8 million+ unlisted YouTube ads & their landing pages)

    PPS - Are you spending $1k/day+ on Paid Ads? Let’s brainstorm on how you can scale with YouTube, Connected TV and more.

    👉 Go here to set up a free brainstorm chat.

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    What are your YouTube ad questions?

    In the meantime, what questions do YOU have about YouTube ads?

    Let us know in the Comments section below, and we’ll make sure to cover your question in an upcoming post.

    Have a nice day!

    The VidTao Team