Ogilvy on Advertising

A few months back, I read Ogilvy on Advertising. Initially, I think I was drawn to it because of my obsession for the television show Mad Men. But what actually made me start to read it, and take it pretty seriously, was a realization that it was relevant to the work I do.

Written in the mid-80s, the book does occasionally seem a bit dated. My favorite example of this is the chapter offering advice on how to run an advertising firm:

Your alcoholics may include some of your brightest stars. The problem is to identify them, protected as they always are by their secretaries and their colleagues. Invite the alcoholic’s wife to join you in a surprise confrontation with her husband.

The book is filled to the brim with practical advice on everything from type to photography to leadership. Perhaps if I draw out a few of my favorite quotes, you’ll be convinced.

Great leaders are always fanatically committed to their jobs. They do not suffer from the crippling need to be universally loved.

It will help you recognize a big idea if you ask yourself five questions:
1. Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
2. Do I wish I had thought of it myself?
3. Is it unique?
4. Does it fit the strategy to perfection?
5. Could it be used for 30 years?

I never assign a product to a writer unless I know that he is personally interested in it. Every time I have written a bad campaign, it has been because the product did not interest me.

One theme throughout the text is Ogilvy’s commitment to research-based decision making. He bemoans the habit of ignoring data or failing to collect the data that could inform strategy. Some things never change.

It’s a good read. If you get around to it, let me know what you think.


Author: susantevans

Susan T. Evans is director of corporate and foundations relations at the College of William & Mary. She is a proven strategic leader with deep expertise in advancement, communications, brand management, marketing, digital strategy, technology, administration and organizational development. She is known for creative and strategic approaches to challenges within higher education, nonprofits and business.

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