How To Create “Hooks” That Make People Respond To Your Ads

March 30, 2021

5 minute read
  • Copywriting

Direct response copywriting is all about getting… well… a response.

A good direct response ad compels qualified prospects to take the action you want. Give up their email or postal address. Click on a link. Or type in their credit card info and purchase. 

However, before you can hope to get the coveted response, you must first pull prospects into the promotion. One of the best ways to make that happen is by finding the jaw-dropping “hook” that piques curiosity and forces readership or viewership.

What is a “hook”?

Basically, it’s what behavioral psychologists and NLP practitioners call a pattern interrupt. 

Consider this: Most people lead relatively boring and routine lives. They do the same things every day with the same people. Which means, they fall into a rut. If your ad gets them out of that mental and emotional rut, they will read or watch your ad from beginning to end. 

The “hook” is a riveting story that stops prospects cold in their tracks, makes them do a double-take, and mesmerizes them with the promise of a big payoff. 

Here’s how to make that happen:

Step 1: Pump The Prospect For Buying Hot Buttons

Direct response copywriting is nothing more than… salesmanship multiplied. 

A good salesperson knows their prospect inside and out. 

That “knowing” begins and ends with a thorough understanding of what makes the prospect tick. What emotional hot buttons must be pushed. What “pictures of pleasure” must be painted. What irresistible benefits must be presented.   

For example: Take the golf instruction market. It’s every golfer’s dream to blast the ball off the tee a country mile — straight down the fairway too!

That’s what they want more than anything else — to hit the ball big… so… they can brag at the nineteenth hole to their buddies. 

But golfers know, all too well, how difficult it is to hit the “sweet spot” for a monster shot. If you’re a millimeter off, the ball will hook or slice and fly off to who knows where. Which means, golfers realize this is a precision game that requires a healthy body and great hand-eye coordination. 

The interesting thing is that most golf instruction buyers are older. They tend to be weekend warriors in their 50s and 60s whose bodies have seen better days. Their knees ache. Their shoulders hurt. Their lower backs are in knots. So, they’re looking for easier ways to hit the ball big without resorting to the type of “back-wrenching” windmill swing young bucks use. 

Armed with this information about the typical golfer you go on to the next step. 

Step Two: Dig For The Untold Sensational Story

This is where you’ll hit paydirt by finding what you need to say to get a prospect’s undivided attention. The process involves studying the product and interviewing the people behind it. 

Your objective is to find the untold sensational story no one has seen yet. Once you find this juicy bit of information, the “hook” practically writes itself. 

Let’s continue with our golf example by referring to a true story.

Once upon a time, famous direct response copywriter, John Carlton, was hired to write an ad for a golf swing instructional video course. After making sure he understood the deepest desires of his market, he went on to interview the creator of the product. 

What Carlton recommends during these interviews is to probe for things like: Gossip, opinions, rumors, myth, legends… and especially… contrasting facts that shock you with delight. 

You’re looking for something akin to a cover blurb on the National Enquirer. This is one of the most-read weekly tabloids. Almost all sales happen at the register while people are waiting to get their groceries checked-out. So these cover blurbs must be powerful. 

Anyway, Carlton is interviewing the golf instructor. He asks how he came up with the new swing. Off the cuff, the golf instructor said that he saw a one-legged golfer hit a perfect drive years ago. He instantly knew an able-bodied golfer could get even better results from the same technique. 

With those words, Carlton instantly knew he had the untold sensational story for his hook. 

Which leads us to…

Step Three: Use A Proven Structure To Craft A Compelling Hook

Let’s consider what we have so far.

First, we have all the “hot button” info we need to know what makes our typical prospect take action. Carlton knew that the older, weekend warrior golfers wanted to learn how to nail long and perfect drives off the tee.

Second, we have a jaw-dropping, amazing, and true story that no one is telling. This is the kind of story that would pop right off a tabloid newspaper cover. 

Third, we need to structure the story into a hook that no one can ignore. 

The way we do that is simple. We lay out all of our facts and begin to put them together. 

When John Carlton did it, he came up with this headline…

Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer
Adds 50 Yards To Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks And
Slices… And Can Slash Up To 10 Strokes From 
Your Game, Almost Overnight!

Now, here’s the thing about great hooks. They are not necessarily 100% believable when you first look at them. But they are so curiosity-provoking and intriguing that the target prospect wants to either keep reading or keep watching.

However, they won’t read or watch long… unless… the hook is explained quickly.

Carlton went ahead and told the golf instructor’s story… so that… readers would know that the hook in the headline was actually true. The reader was never let down. A full explanation was given making the claim in the headline believable. 

The ad ran in Golf Digest and other gold magazines for years and pulled in millions of dollars in direct sales — right from the ad. And it helped start one of the most successful direct response golf instruction marketing businesses in history.

More Examples Of Great Hooks

Keep in mind, at the heart of a great hook is… contrast. 

Things that seem incompatible are presented and somehow work. Like a secret from a one-legged golfer who can hit huge drives. Take a look at a few more examples…

Americans Now Legally “Piggybacking”


… And Collecting Extra Monthly Checks From $400 to $4,700


Under an IRS directive, millions of Americans can now collect:



How a Bald-Headed Barber 

Helped Me Save My Hair


The True Story of a High School 

Dropout Who Makes More Money

Than the Average Brain Surgeon


What I Learned From A Brutal Undefeated MMA 

Fighter About Ending Any Fight Within Seconds

… Without Throwing A Single Punch Or Kick


Again, in each of these examples, the contrast creates an urgent need to know more. 

That need to know more — that curiosity — is what compels viewership. 

Americans shouldn’t be able to collect social security from Canada. How are they doing it? The IRS takes money. They don’t give people an opportunity to make money. What is this about? How can a bald barber save anyone’s hair? I’m balding so this I gotta read!

You get the idea. 

Now, it’s your turn to find the jaw-dropping “hook” that piques curiosity and practically guarantees prospects read or watch your promotions… and respond. 

If you need help with your direct response copywriting in any way, click this link to get connected with our team today.