Benefits Versus Features: Crafting Digital Ad Headlines That Spark Interest

Write Label
4 min readDec 19, 2023


By: Scott Zeigler

This article includes many spoiler alerts for the movie Field of Dreams. You should watch this amazing movie before reading the article.

In the best baseball movie ever, Field of Dreams, the main character, Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), follows the guidance of a mysterious voice that vaguely suggests, “If you build it, they will come.” So, he plows under a portion of his struggling corn farm and builds a baseball field. As the other characters receive the magical benefits from the new Field of Dreams, Ray becomes frustrated and asks, “What’s in it for me?”

The same could be said for people going through their digital day. As they scroll through the news, visit various sites, and hit their favorite search engine, ad after ad passes across their eyes. Subconsciously, they have one simple question: what’s in it for me?

When writing digital ad copy, there are two critical elements that need to be passed along in a very tight space. What the product does, its features, and, more importantly, what it does for the buyer, the benefits.

On Ray’s Field of Dreams, there were plenty of features: freshly cut grass, a simple backstop and benches for the players, a few rows of wooden bleachers for his family and other fans, old-school baseball, and a beautiful row of corn that ran along the outfield acting as a fence between the playing field and the magical world out of which the players emerged to play and disappeared when the game was over.

Yeah, but Ray wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”

For Ray, the benefit was (this is a major spoiler alert) playing catch with his dad one last time. Now, if the mysterious voice had called out, “If you build a baseball field, you’ll bring back long-dead baseball players and have a chance to make the dreams of some people come true, including you, because you’ll be able to play catch with you dad,” Ray would have done all of it without asking a single question.

What does all this have to do with digital ads?

Benefits get people to take action. Features might make the product more attractive to a person already considering a product, but it’s the benefit that can pull in someone who didn’t think they needed it. Ray would never have considered playing catch with his long-dead father if the idea wasn’t presented to him by the mysterious voice.

As a copywriter, you’re the mysterious voice whose job it is to get people to think, “I need that.” But you don’t have to be mysterious about it. Lead with that last line: You can play catch with your dad. That headline is going to get the reader to ask questions like how and what do I have to do for this to happen.

For example, you need a 24-character headline for a vacuum cleaner. The features are that it’s powerful, easily maneuvers around objects, has detachable accessories, is easy to clean, and so on.

But what’s in it for the buyer?

I like to use the features to imagine a potential buyer who might use such an object as well as any demographic target information provided by the client. One version of this person is young, has moved into their first place, and has a simple lifestyle. They love to have friends over, so cleaning has to be done quickly and simply. There we go.

Quick and easy cleaning.

24 characters. I took “quickly and simply” and made a little tweak to boil it down. That’s the benefit for my imaginary buyer. The follow-up subheader can work toward the features of the vacuum that make it quick and easy, completing the picture that will intrigue them enough to click the ad. In the subheader, I don’t want to completely abandon benefits, hoping to weave them together with features.

Quick and easy cleaning

with the accessories to do it all.

Those accessories are a feature, but the ability to “do it all” is a benefit. Working together, the headline and subheadline give a browser ample reasons to say, “I need quick and easy cleaning to do it all.” Okay, maybe not that exactly, but the seeds are there.

A heavy emphasis on benefits as the lead of an ad gets right to the heart of what you, the mysterious voice/copywriter, want to convey to ad viewers.



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