Confessions of an Advertising Man


Legendary advertiser David Ogilvy shares a bit of his story and how he thinks about advertising.

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Key Takeaways

  1. The function of most advertising is not to persuade people to try your product, but to persuade them to use it more often than other brands in their repertoire
  2. My mentor M. Pitard praised very seldom, but when he did, we were exalted to the skies. He also did not tolerate incompetence. He knew that it was demoralizing for professionals to work alongside incompetent amateurs. He taught me exorbitant standards of service
  3. Make yourself indispensable and you’ll never be fired
  4. Top man’s principle job is to create an atmosphere in which creative mavericks can do useful work
  5. The pursuit of excellence is less profitable than the pursuit of bigness, but it can be more satisfying
  6. Creative people are especially observant, and they value accurate observation (telling themselves the truth) more than other people do
  7. The creative process requires more than reason. Most original thinking isn’t even verbal…We must be able to escape from the tyranny of reason
  8. It is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create
  9. The Duke of Wellington never went home until he had finished all of the work on his desk
  10. Your most treasured possession is the creative reputation of your agency
  11. No team can write an advertisement and I doubt whether there is a single agency of any consequence that isn’t the lengthened shadow of one man. Compromise has no place in advertising. WHatever you do, go the whole hog
  12. A good advertisement is one that sells the product without drawing attention to itself
  13. Personalities > corporations – the company who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit
  14. TV ads – if it doesn’t sell without sound, it’s useless
  15. Rise to the top by being ambitious, but not so aggressive that those around you rise up to destroy you
  16. Next to luck, fertility and midnight oil are the best weapons to use in hunting new business
  17. I never wanted to get an account so big that I could not afford to lose it. The day you do that, you commit yourself to living with fear. Frightened agencies lose the courage to give candid advice; once you lose that you become a lackey
  18. My ambition is to add one new client every 2 years
  19. I always resign from the service of bullies
  20. No advertising man can serve two masters
  21. I have always tried to sit on the same side of the table as my clients, to see problems through their eyes
  22. The most dangerous thing that can happen to an agency is to depend on a single personal tie with a client company
  23. What you say is more important than how you say it
  24. Don’t be a copy cat – develop your own style
  25. Don’t beat around the bush and avoid superlatives – go straight to the point, be specific, and factual
  26. Every headline should appeal to the reader’s self-interest – it should promise them a benefit they can relate to

What I got out of it

Some beautiful anecdotes and useful advice on advertising and it was fun to learn more about Ogilvy’s background, story, and philosophy.

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