David Ogilvy famously said his secret to success was simple: “First make a reputation for being a creative genius. Second surround yourself with partners who are better than you are. Third leave them to get on with it.”
In Ogilvy On Advertising, Ogilvy’s judgements on advertising and his appeal shines through his guidebook to the advertising business. His words are a discovery into consumer behavior. His love for the art and science of using words (and sometimes pictures) to coo and coax is fascinating.
Written with sincere enthusiasm, each chapter begins with a frontispiece describing a personal experience that demonstrates a basic advertising concept. Consequently, the reader’s attention is engaged and is brought into the situation immediately.
On The Power Of Advertising
The first thing I have to say is that you may not realize the magnitude of difference between one advertisement and another. Says John Caples, the doyen of direct response copywriters:
‘I have seen one advertisement actually sell not twice as much, not three times as much, but 19.5 times as much as another. Both advertisements occupied the same space. Both had photographic illustrations. Both had carefully written copy. The difference was that one used the right appeal and the other used the wrong appeal.’
The wrong advertising can actually reduce the sales of a product.
On ‘Creativity’ in Advertising
I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative’. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’
On the Pursuit Of Knowledge
I asked an indifferent copywriter what books he had read about advertising. He told me that he had not read any he preferred to rely on his own intuition. ‘Suppose’, I asked, ‘your gall-bladder has to be removed this evening. Will you choose a surgeon who has read some books on anatomy and knows where to find your gall-bladder, or a surgeon who relies on his intuition? Why should our clients be expected to bet millions of dollars on your intuition?’
This willful refusal to learn the rudiments of the craft is all too common. I cannot think of any other profession which gets by on such a small corpus of knowledge.
On the underestimated weapon known as Direct Mail
One day a man walked into a London agency and asked to see the boss. He had bought a country house and was about to open it as a hotel. Could the agency help him to get customers? He had $500 to spend. Not surprisingly, the head of the agency turned him over to the office boy, who happened to be the author of this book. I invested his money in penny postcards and mailed them to well-heeled people living in the neighborhood. Six weeks later the hotel opened to a full house. I had tasted blood.