You sell or else

When I think of the legends of our business, I immediately think of David Ogilvy.   

He was responsible for much of the iconic ad copy and "characters" we all reference as the pinnacle of advertising in the 50’s and 60’s.  (I love Gene’s story about an impromptu conversation he had with Ogilvy in the company’s cafeteria.)

His book, Ogilvy on Advertising is still one of the best.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  If you have, you should read it again.

Thanks to the exhaustive archives of YouTube, here’s a little glimpse into how Ogilvy viewed advertising.  He didn’t have much respect for creativity just to be creative.  He believed that the job of advertising (and I would guess he’d extend that to all marketing efforts) was to sell something.

Hat tip to Efraín Mendicuti for sharing this on his excellent blog, The daily stuff and the not so.  Efraín makes the point that if as you listen to Ogilvy you substitute interactive marketing for direct response, you can see what Ogilvy would think about the digital world we are cutting our teeth on today.

8 comments on “You sell or else

  1. Brad Shorr says:

    Drew, You’re right, I think Ogilvy was a genius. His book “Confessions of an Advertising Man” is also superb, with more emphasis on sales on how he rose to the top. Very enlightening stuff.

  2. Brad,

    He was a classic, that’s for sure. I wonder how he’d fare in today’s world?

    I agree with you about his book. It’s a must read for anyone in the business. And actually, it’s an informative read for anyone in any business!


  3. Joe McCoy says:

    I developed a top 10 website marketing books list recently and Ogilvy on Advertising was #4 – his stuff is just so valuable and so far ahead of anything other people were doing. His concepts and view of business have strong application in today’s website marketing focused world.

  4. Joe,

    I think Ogilvy would have loved this era of marketing that we’re in now. It would have been fascinating to watch him take advantage of the tools we have today.


  5. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    Timeless advice! If he had made this presentation today he would still be spot on – and still a worthwhile ‘warrior’ and promoter for direct response marketing.

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  6. Karin,

    Maybe that’s the true test of genius. That it stands the rest of time and isn’t just commentary on a moment in time?


  7. Eamon says:

    Hi Drew

    Ogilvy, in my view, was the best all-rounder in the history of advertising. He was a copywriter (and creative in general), writing an exceptional sales manual for Aga cookers that became a classic in its day. As well as creating classic straplines such as (Rolls Royce): ‘At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.’ What I like about this is not just the cleverness of the strapline but the way he went about in creating it (or rather discovering it). After hours and hours of trying to think up a strapline he decided to plough through all the manuals he could find on Rolls Royce to see if he could find anything interesting. Then he came across the fact about how quiet the Rolls Royce was in reference to a ticking clock. He used this as an example about how everyone in the ad agency, not just the account planner, should familiarize themselves with the brand.

    Ogilvy is remembered for many things (including general ad exec), but for me as an account planner, I think of him, in particular, in terms of the ‘big idea’ (that every campaign should have a ‘big’ marketing ‘idea’ that makes the brand stand out from the competition and engages the audience in a special way as well as offering an important benefit, and so on. The ‘big idea’ is revolutionary in the history of advertising. So important, in fact, that some advertising agencies like to call themselves (well, unofficially, at least, ideas agencies).

    However, I do think that we have moved on a bit from the ‘big idea’ in the sense that we now need a tapestry of ideas (not just one ‘big idea’), perhaps, under an important idea that links them altogether. The reason for this is that media channels are now so dispersed / spread out compared to TV (and radio / cinema / print / billboards) in the day of Ogilvy. Also, audience groups are so different to what they were in the time of Ogilvy. In Ogilvy’s day a typical family would all sit down for dinner and then, afterwards, watch the TV together. Today one child could be playing a game on the internet. Another sending text messages. Another listening to an ipod. Mum could be watching one of of hundreds of channels on the TV. And Dad could be sending emails / reading a news item off the internet and so on. Add to that the fact the audiences give less time and attention to advertising than before, so brand-builders have to create more of a marketing mix (PR, publicity, brand sponsorship, and so on) and not rely so much on advertising, alone.
    So to cut a long story short, a big idea on its own can (but not always) be a bit clunky. Although the general approach is still sound, a more subtle approach is required. Nevertheless the lessons of Ogilvy on this, in general, are invaluable.

    Eamon. Account Planner (and part-time copywriter)

  8. Eamon,

    The story you recall about the Rolls Royce is one of my favorite Ogilvy tales. It’s such a good reminder that we have an obligation to dig deeply into the products and services of our clients.

    And that a big idea can come from a very small fact.

    I think a big idea can still be very effective. It just needs to be populated across the media matrix, rather than just one medium.


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