Ogilvy on Advertising was one of the first books I had on my reading list back when I created my system for reading more. My only regret after finally reading it is having delayed for a year and a half.
Drawing from 40 years of experience, David Ogilvy shows everything he learned from creating some of the most successful advertising campaigns to date (some of which are still running today).
From using research instead of rules to reminding yourself exactly what you’re paid to do, Ogilvy provides a blunt outlook of how to improve as a marketer and copywriter.
“When I got a margarine account, I was under the impression that margarine was made from coal. Ten days reading the literature taught me otherwise.” – David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising, p.11
At times his writing is standoffish and hostile, and he never claims to be infallible, but many of the marketing tips he championed 24 years ago still hold true today. Unfortunately, finding those nine golden tips in 220+ pages of case studies and niche information on how advertising agencies work is a bit of a nightmare.
That’s why I’ve done it for you. Time is money, after all, and the quicker you learn these marketing tips, the sooner you can succeed in selling.
Use research, not rules
If there’s one thing to take away from Ogilvy on Advertising, it’s that the man was obsessed with the power of research. From which fonts perform best, to color selection, layout, positioning, and even character count, Ogilvy had masses of research to draw from to inform his decisions when creating a new ad.
Having said that, within the first two pages of his introduction Ogilvy denies enforcing “rules”.
“I hate rules. All I do is report how customers react to different stimuli” – David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising, p.8
In other words, Ogilvy would base most of his decisions on what had worked in the past, and on principles that research had shown to be true. He wouldn’t stick to them religiously, but by researching and learning common factors about his audience he was able to get a level of consistency in his results.
For example, several times in Ogilvy on Advertising he seems to be baffled at the decision of others to use white text on a black background, because research has repeatedly shown that it is much harder to read.
Organize your research
Research is useless if you can’t retrieve it at a later date. In fact, this is one of Ogilvy’s main criticisms of researchers in advertising agencies:
“Even if somebody remembers that the research was done, nobody can find it. So we re-invent the wheel, year after year.” – David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising, p.36
If you can’t reliably retrieve the information you gather you’re forcing yourself to redo all of the work just to discover the same thing over and over again. In today’s climate, however, you can take this one step further – you Go to the full article.