What hooks them?

The first two lines of copy make a disproportionate impact on the effectiveness of your whole piece. After all: if people don’t get hooked at the beginning, they might never even read the rest of the piece.

Hook people with a massive promise, a surprising finding, or an outrageous piece of news that challenges their current worldview. Start in the middle of the drama. If you don’t hook them immediately, everything else doesn’t matter.


  • Typically, the visual or video will catch the attention before any written word. The visual catches someone’s attention, and from there you develop your hook.
  • What hooks an audience may or may not be directly related to the service that you sell. For Double, our ads typically focus on a promise of helping people understand how to think about growth marketing. Later on, we sell them agency services.
  • Start the story with the most sensational bit. Think tabloid newspapers, and their click-baity headlines. Start in the middle, start with the action.
  • Nothing hooks you like being singled out. If someone shouts your name in a crowded space, they have you hooked. Many strong hooks start off calling out specifically who the message is for. Some examples:
    —“Hey analytics nerds, did you know? Starting today, GA Universal Analytics properties will stop processing. Here’s what to do now: ...
    —“Calling all yoga practitioners. Here’s something you should know about: …
  • News and intrigue work as great hooks. People love to know what’s new, and stay on top of what’s happening in the world.
  • If you use visuals, use visuals with people in it. If you use people, use people that look directly into the camera. If you can, let it be an attractive woman. There’s some deep reasons why that works.
  • An immediate promise of a very tangible value will often work. Provide value before people even need to do anything. We call that front-loading the value (next law!).
  • Study the concept of story appeal: visuals or other cues that suggest something interesting and intriguing. For instance, the Man with the Hattaway shirt:

In Practice

In the opening scene of the first ever episode of House of Cards, Kevin Spacey strangles a helpless dog, while directly addressing the viewer about two different kinds of pain. It is a bizarre scene, and immediately raises a million questions that the viewer wants to have resolved. Within 60 seconds, you are completely hooked.

Another example, from marketing, is the famous “dollar bill sales letter” of copywriting legend Gary Halbert. Gary would mail, via physical mail, sales letters to sell a get-rich-quick product. Stamped to the top of the letter was a real $1 bill, to catch the reader’s attention. Who wouldn’t open a letter, that includes real money. It’s odd, but that’s exactly why it works.

Pair with

  • Presentation Sean Ellis about developing hooks & angles
  • Famous ads: Man in the Hattaway shirt
  • Gary Halbert letters
the value