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Ogilvy on Advertising -- the original Mad Man
May 5, 2011 4:50 PM   Subscribe

"How to Create Advertising that Sells" by David Ogilvy From the late 60's to early 70's, ad agency Ogilvy & Mather ran a series of full-page ads designed to promote the then-new innovative marketing discipline called Direct Response. This ad (#4 in the series) was 1900 words long and featured advice for creating "advertising that sells."

It was written by the original Mad Man himself, David Ogilvy and distills the DR foundation laid by Claude Hopkins, John Caples and the statistical polling methodology Ogilvy learned at Gallup.

Image of the original ad

Full text of the original ad

The classic Ogilvy on Advertising
posted by zooropa (39 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Number 13: "...the consumer isn't a moron, she is your wife."
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:08 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm hearing these in Larry King's voice.
posted by gimonca at 5:11 PM on May 5, 2011


I read Ogilvy's book last year, and Roger Sterling's review of it was 100% accurate: "he should call it a thousand reasons why I'm so great."
posted by COBRA! at 5:12 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wikipedia page on direct response marketing. (For those who need to know what that term means, like me.)
posted by hippybear at 5:12 PM on May 5, 2011


David Ogilvy: We Sell or Else

posted by dabitch at 5:13 PM on May 5, 2011


And now I'm going to have to go back and watch Century Of The Self to see if Ogilvy is mentioned.
posted by hippybear at 5:15 PM on May 5, 2011


Ogilvy is an absolute delight. There are very few geniuses in the world of advertising, and they're hard to find because every advertiser is trying hard to convince you he's one of them, but Ogilvy is the real deal.

I wish more modern advertisers were influenced by him. He wrote killer headlines, perfect copy, and somehow avoided gotchas. He knew how to grab your attention, but he didn't cheat to get it. He wrote advertising which you could trust, weird as that sounds. Lots of advertising nowadays is ironic; look at the Old Spice commercials, which sell by actively undercutting their own message. Ogilvy didn't parody product. His ads were sincere. Sure, they were selling a thing, but they gave you a straightforward pitch and spent a little time getting you involved.

His Rolls-Royce advertisement gets called the greatest advertisement of all time. Detailed, classy, compelling. The language flows. The copy is a delight. Thirteen separate selling points? Who today would dare to sell thirteen points in a magazine ad?

You can see his influence in the work of Bernbach, whose Volkswagen ad is the other great print ad. But Bernbach's ad undercuts. It sells itself by being unexpected. Its copy text is still damn good, but it opposes the headline. Or its Think Small ad, which gets away with not showing you its product up large because it's proving a point. From there, advertisers started thinking of how to be clever rather than how to be comprehensive. Don't those Volkswagen ads look an awful lot like modern Apple print ads? But with one exception: Apple would never write that much copy text. They haven't done longform since Think Different. They sell images and taglines rather than copy.

I keep hoping that we'll get back to Ogilvy's style of advertising, but as adspace gets smaller and smaller, advertisers are going to resort more and more to gotchas. There isn't space to work with large copy anymore. It's a shame. It makes me think that, as bad as the modern state of advertising is, things are only going to get worse.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:17 PM on May 5, 2011 [16 favorites]


the original Don Draper
posted by liza at 5:31 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The body copy type in the VW "Lemon" ad is really poorly laid out. But they didn't have InDesign back then.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 5:31 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Actually, now that I think of it, while Apple's print work is pretty flashy, their web advertising strikes me as something right out of Ogilvy. Does any other modern company describe their products in such gratuitously pretty language?)
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:32 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


The farther he descended into the jungle of the advertising trade, the more questions there were to which there was no answer either in Al Rice's Positioning: a battle for your mind or in his last book on the subject, The Final Positioning. One of the art critics-in-Kenzo [a pun on искусствовед в штатском, "art critic in plainclothes"--a slang term for a KGB officer who dealt with cultural matters] swore to Tatarskii that any topics not covered by Rice would be examined in David Ogilvy's Confessions of an Advertising Man. Tatarskii respected Ogilvy even without the art critic's help; in his heart of hearts he believed that this was the same character from George Orwell's 1984 who appeared for a second in the protagonist's imagination, performed his virtual feat, and disappeared into the ocean of nothingness. The fact that comrade Ogilvy, despite his double unreality, still managed to swim out to shore, light his pipe, put on his tweed blazer, and become an internationally famous advertising ace, filled Tatarskii with mystic awe of his profession.
- Viktor Pelevin, Generation 'P'

(Sorry, this is like the millionth time I've quoted this book here, but it seems pertinent.)
posted by nasreddin at 5:34 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


look at the Old Spice commercials, which sell by actively undercutting their own message.
Apparently sales dropped after they ran that campaign, although they went back for more, so I'm not sure what the deal was.

But I'm not really sure what you think the message in the old spice commercials is supposed to be. It's a deodorant. There isn't really any reason to buy it over any other. What they want is to get people to try it and see if they like the way the smell after using it. You can't literally make people like the smell through TV advertising.

The thing with print advertising, you've basically got to catch someone who's bored and get them to read your prose. Things, obviously, work differently on the internet or in other media. The iPad thing you linked too is a landing page, something for someone who's already interested in the product.

Anyway, I use adblock these days, so I hardly see any internet advertisements. It's actually pretty awesome. Even if advertising isn't lying to you, it's still a waste of time.
posted by delmoi at 5:42 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


To sum up.
Ogilvy & Mather has created over $1,480,000,000 worth of advertising.
We're very good at billing our customers an talking them into buying media.

1. The most important decision... how should you position your product?
No matter how stupid your product and useless, our bullshit will move it off the shelf.

2. Large promise.
Lay it on thick.

3. Brand image.
Consumers are illiterate morons.

4. Big ideas.
I mean like bullshit as thick as Greeley Colorado.

5. A first-class ticket.
Target not K-Mart mother fucker.

6. Don’t be a bore.
Did I say lay it on thick, I mean lay that bullshit down.

7. Innovate. Start trends – instead of following them.
We're so much cooler than you. Our creative directors are gods, you are just some trend following poser. Now buy some more fucking media.

8. Be suspicious of awards.
Look, we're an enormous ad agency. Despite rule 7, we'e going to give you some mediocre trend following creative and charge you a fortune for it. We don't really win awards with this approach, which is why you the agency client should totally ignore that.

9. Psychological Segmentation.
We're going to bill the shit out of you on lots of creative and then charge you a great markup on all the various media you're going to buy.

10. Don’t bury news.
Let me make sure to sell you some PR. Those guys in the PR department need to eat to.

11. Go the whole hog.

There is no rule number eleven, but I made BIG promise to you for 38 objectives. Now that its 2011 I'll throw Interactive, SEM, and web banners in here.

What Works Best In Television
Now we'e going to make some fucking money for the agency. Someone get me a sammich from Craft Services.

12. Testimonials. Avoid irrelevant celebrities.
15% of some big name celeb fucking gets me some money in the bank. You want some b-list celeb, I can't fucking earn on that.

13. Problem-solution (don’t cheat!).... the consumer isn’t a moron. She is your wife.
Nothing wrong with a blowjob from your secretary AMIRITE?

14. Visual demonstrations.
Cause your on fucking television moron.

15. Slice of life. These playlets are corny, and most copywriters detect them. But they have sold a lot of merchandise, and are still selling.

See the bit about why we don't care about awards

16. Avoid logorrhea. Make your pictures tell the story.
It's called TELEVISION MORON. YOU FUCKING WATCH IT.

17. On-camera voice.
Voice over talent is too fucking cheap. I want to put that famous guy on the screen and earn bank on the markup.

18. Musical Backgrounds. Most commercials use musical backgrounds. However, on the average, musical backgrounds reduce recall of your commercial.

This is just some bullshit I say to make me sound smart. When commercials stop having musical backgrounds, I'll switch my BS and go the other way.

19. Stand-ups. The stand-up pitch can be effective, if it is delivered with straightforward honesty.
Perhaps you don't understand how this works. I'm Ogilvy mother fucker. I inveted advertising. Now signoff on our fucking creative and media buy cause I have to get back to golf. Jesus why did I promose 38 of these things.

20. Burr of singularity.
Well fuck it, I'll just rephrase the shit about branding and paper it over in more bs.

21. Animation and cartoons.
Blah blah blady blah. Hey want some breakfast cereal little kid. CHOKE ON MY FREIND THE TRIX RABBIT!!!!! I WILL SHOVE THIS SUGAR DOWN YOUR LITTLE THROAT.

22. Salvage commercials.
Since most of our work is low grade shit turned out by kids hired right out of school, we're going to need to re-edit it. If the advertising isn't driving sales, don't fire us, let us bill you some more to fix it. We have a few older pros in the creative department that we use for these "saves".

23. Factual versus emotional.....Among these are our campaigns for Maxwell House Coffee and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate.
Ok up to 23, time to drop a few big name clients, even if they've dropped us, or we had nothing to do with the thing you know them for.

24. Grabbers.
Why the fuck didn't I just promise 38 of these. Anyway we've covered TV. So long as you buy a big national TV campaign, we're going to get along just fine.

What Works Best In Print?
Oh thank god, another kind of media. What to say. let me rattle off a few obvious things, but try to sound smart:

25. Headline.
26. Benefited headline.
27. News and headlines.
28. Simple headlines.
29. How many words in a headline? .... “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”


Shit I almost mistyped that as electric COCK. That's why the queen drives a Rolls you know, the thing is an electric cock.

Now let me say the same thing twice.
30. Localize headlines.
31. Select your prospects.

Whew into the thirties. I don't keep my women this long so I'm glad you are still here.

32. Yes, people read long copy. ....from Mercedes Benz, Cessna Citation, Merrill Lynch, and Shell Gasoline. “The more you tell, the more sell.”
Are you still here, fucking sign the FUCKING agency agreement already. Clearly you think I'm some kind of genius, you want me to keep rattling along like this it will be 20K/month in fees, plus a minimum $10 million dollars in media a year.

33. Story appeal and picture.
Look I'm a fucking genius. I know everything.

34. Before and after.
Fuck this is hard. 38 items. Get me some kid from the mailroom who wants to try to make it to the creative department. I'm going golfing.

35. Photographs versus art work.
Hi I'm Ted, I'm 22 and just graduated from SUNY Bumblfuck with a degree in creative writing. Look at me I'm writing copy!!!

36. Use captions to sell.
The creative director left to go smoke, I'm writing this myself.

37: Editorial layout...
38: Repeat your winners


I got nothing. Fuck it. 38..
posted by humanfont at 6:03 PM on May 5, 2011


delmoi: But I'm not really sure what you think the message in the old spice commercials is supposed to be. It's a deodorant. There isn't really any reason to buy it over any other. What they want is to get people to try it and see if they like the way the smell after using it. You can't literally make people like the smell through TV advertising.

Er, yeah, I get that. It's not like Old Spice is being remotely subtle. And what's it matter that you can't smell a deodorant in an advertisement? You can't drive a Rolls-Royce in a print ad. In fact, unless what you're selling is an advertising agency or a very tiny book, you will never have an advertisement that actually contains its product.

So how do you go about selling deodorant? Well, you figure out why people want deodorant. Sometimes it's as simple as saying, "We'll make you smell less." But if there are a lot of products trying to reduce odor, then you do something differently. You've got to, or else you're selling a bullshit product and charging your customers extra for making you sell it to them.

Old Spice isn't entirely bullshit. They've got a distinctive smell that's not entirely offensive. But they're not a product that younger people use. So they geared this ad towards irony-sensitive youth, by parodying a whole line of advertising logic and simultaneously one-upping it. And they did a damn good job creatively (it's a Wieden+Kennedy job, and W+K might be my favorite modern agency), but W+K's all about making something creative rather than really selling their product; they also did Nike's Just Do It and Honda's Cog, which were both insanely successful without saying anything about what they were selling.

I like those ads, and most of my favorite ads work like that — but they're antithetical to David Ogilvy's style. I can't think of any modern advertisements that remind me of Ogilvy. And you're right about Apple — their web site isn't an advertisement, it's a brochure. But that's the closest we get nowadays.

delmoi: Even if advertising isn't lying to you, it's still a waste of time.

Of course it's a waste of time. But advertising pays for a lot of things that I use. Without advertising I don't have some of my favorite movies, I don't have any of my favorite TV shows, and I might not have some of my favorite web sites. MetaFilter included. So while I block obnoxious ads, I don't resent advertisement the way you seem to. And if advertisement was a little bit classier and respectful, like it was way back in 1959, then I'd resent it even less, and maybe even read it sometimes.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:05 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


And if advertisement was a little bit classier and respectful, like it was way back in 1959, then I'd resent it even less, and maybe even read it sometimes.

Oh, come on.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:22 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ogilvy's book is one of the reasons I went from engineering to advertising and marketing as a career. And I'm an introvert.

I do agree that bad sales, marketing and advertising make everyone in the business look bad but in the end, nothing happens until something gets sold.
posted by Tacodog at 6:24 PM on May 5, 2011


Many commercials drown the viewer in a torrent of words. We call that logorrhea, (rhymes with diarrhea.)

Now I'm no Dr. Seuss, but I don't think logorrhea actually *rhymes* with diarrhea.
posted by jeremy b at 6:43 PM on May 5, 2011


Now I'm no Dr. Seuss, but I don't think logorrhea actually *rhymes* with diarrhea.

You must not go to many open mics.
posted by nasreddin at 6:48 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


So how do you go about selling deodorant?

You make people feel bad about things their body does naturally and then create a sense of social fear that others will also feel bad of those things are noticed. You then prey on that fear to get them to buy chemicals they can smear on their body to overcome the thing they now fear because you told them to, with the threatened social penalty of rejection by one's peers or lover if the consumer ignores your reprogramming of their life.
posted by hippybear at 7:23 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


David Ogilvy is regularly mentioned on the CBC Radio show, The Age of Persuasion, which now has a podcast.
posted by Decimask at 7:27 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


humanfront, hippybear, I think you are misunderstanding what Ogilvy was trying to say. And you have a pretty low opinion of humanity if you actually believe what you say.
posted by gjc at 7:54 PM on May 5, 2011


What? I have a low view of humanity because I see clearly how needs are created within a consumer population by those who do advertising?

I'm not sure what you mean, really. I have a very high opinion of humanity. I just don't have a very high opinion of how the masses are manipulated by those who's career is to manipulate people.
posted by hippybear at 8:08 PM on May 5, 2011


Grrr. who's = whose.
posted by hippybear at 8:09 PM on May 5, 2011


the original Don Draper

So, liza... you DNRTFA?
posted by IAmBroom at 9:20 PM on May 5, 2011


Number 13: "...the consumer isn't a moron, she is your wife" is the vital point. Most domestic spending decisions, with the exception of stuff regarding the main car in the household, are made by women. This is why most advertising is aimed at women and, accordingly, why most television programmes (and mass market magazines etc) are aimed at women. For all the talk of sexism in the media and elsewhere, advertisers - and the television companies - pay way more attention to what women want than men.
posted by joannemullen at 1:08 AM on May 6, 2011


gjc would you mind clarifying your point a bit? What do you think Ogilvy was trying to say, why would you think my interpretation of his words would indicate a negative view of humanity?

Ogilvy wrote that article to pitch customers, not dispense wisdom on future generations. It's a great little bit that some CEO or leader can clip out and send down to the head of marketing, or the head of marketing can cite in their next meeting with the agency. And every time it gets talked about it re-inforces the message that Ogilvy & Mather are advertising geniuses. Fucking brilliant. Don't take it seriously though. It is mostly filler and pseudoscientific nonsense. Also always remember that the primary purpose of your ad agency isn't to come up with cool creative, it is to bill you as much as possible to make money for the firm. See also your external accountants and lawyers and don't get me started on your bankers.
posted by humanfont at 6:21 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


i did RTFA. i still think he's the original Don Draper.
you got a problem with that?
*side eye*
posted by liza at 7:04 AM on May 6, 2011


Without advertising I don't have some of my favorite movies, I don't have any of my favorite TV shows, and I might not have some of my favorite web sites. MetaFilter included. So while I block obnoxious ads, I don't resent advertisement the way you seem to.
First of all, most feature films are made to be sold directly, not as vehicles for advertising like TV shows. Secondly Metafilter started out as a side project and existed that way for years. It's great that Matt doesn't need to have another job, I guess, but even if I didn't have ad block I wouldn't see ads on the site since I'm a registered user.
posted by delmoi at 8:33 AM on May 6, 2011


W+K's all about making something creative rather than really selling their product; they also did Nike's Just Do It and Honda's Cog, which were both insanely successful without saying anything about what they were selling.

I like those ads, and most of my favorite ads work like that — but they're antithetical to David Ogilvy's style. I can't think of any modern advertisements that remind me of Ogilvy.


There's actually a reason for this. Much of the shift from informative advertising to lifestyle advertising is laid out in Century Of The Self. I feel like I'm pushing it right and left these days, but there's just so much in there which is informative about exactly this kind of thing.
posted by hippybear at 8:48 AM on May 6, 2011


Apple would never write that much copy text. They haven't done longform since Think Different. They sell images and taglines rather than copy.

Longform's coming back on this side of the Atlantic - I can't find them online right now but both The Economist and Currys are using very text-heavy ads, which work nicely on train platforms where one has little to do but take them in. There's stuff like this as well which relies on a reading of the text rather than just shouting at passersby. (There;'s a hideous ad for The Pregnant Widow which just has 'SEX' in huge yellow letters at the top and a picture of the cover. I'd link to it but I'm not Googling 'pregnant widow sex' at work.) But when I read O on A, it did occur to me how dated the longcopy, one-third picture two-third text set in Century Schoolbook ads look today. I'm not as familiar with print as I am with TV, but that style fitted its time and time has changed, and long copy even has changed with it.

Number 13: "...the consumer isn't a moron, she is your wife" is the vital point. Most domestic spending decisions, with the exception of stuff regarding the main car in the household, are made by women.
Clever advertisers clocked onto this early on, hence the prevalence of 'two cunts in a kitchen' [Mod note: this is what they were called in-house, I am swearing for a reason] ads, at least in the UK. And at a time when men had less involvement with domestic duties, it was necessary to bear in mind. Computer and building trade print ads look pretty dated to me as many of them stick scantily-clad women in as decoration, but as the majority of buyers are male I can see the thought process there.
posted by mippy at 9:24 AM on May 6, 2011


You make people feel bad about things their body does naturally and then create a sense of social fear that others will also feel bad of those things are noticed. You then prey on that fear to get them to buy chemicals they can smear on their body to overcome the thing they now fear because you told them to, with the threatened social penalty of rejection by one's peers or lover if the consumer ignores your reprogramming of their life.

This is how bad breath was 'marketed'. I'm quite happy to live in a world where people want to keep their breath clean.
posted by mippy at 9:26 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Animation and cartoons. Less than 5% of television commercials use cartoons or animation. They are less persuasive than live commercials. The consumer can not identify herself with the character in the cartoon and cartoon’s do not invite belief. However, Carson-Roberts, our partners in Los Angeles, tell us that animation can be helpful when you are talking to children. They should know, they have addressed more than 600 commercials to children.
This has really changed. I see a lot of cartoons, puppets and characters in all types of TV advertising now - there is a meerkat character (think the Geico gecko) who has been phenomenally popular in the UK; Toilet Duck and Mr Muscle use animated mascots too, as does Diet Coke with their Pullip-like marionettes.
posted by mippy at 9:28 AM on May 6, 2011


I'm quite happy to live in a world where people want to keep their breath clean.

Ah, but would you even notice, if that cultural programming in order to sell products had never taken place? THAT is the interesting question, I think.
posted by hippybear at 11:26 AM on May 6, 2011


In the middle link two or three cars parked under the stars shows above, there's a projector advertised with the help of Sabrina. Sabrinas ads are a great example (from the era) of irrelevant celebrities, since she was basically famous for being built with an impossible bust-to-waist ratio. A more recent example would be anything advertised by Anna Nicole, Paris & Carl's Jr, and countless D-celeb page 3 girls in the UK promoting all sorts of things.
posted by dabitch at 3:22 PM on May 6, 2011


oh, Old Spice with the "Man your man could smell like" campaign is selling body wash, to women. Because the insight is that we're sick and tired of our spouses/SO's scrubbing down with our lavendel&honey-celluilite-removal-age-defying-roses-and-unicorns stuff, thus a) wasting it (it's expensive!) and b) ending up smelling like us. Since the women in the house most often buy the body wash, they're telling us to buy that for him. Next they'll try and find a way to teach our guys to open their eyes when they're in the shower so that they stop using our detangling-super-body-boosting-silk-and-drops-of-real-pearls-shampoo too.
posted by dabitch at 3:30 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


since she was basically famous for being built with an impossible bust-to-waist ratio.

She looks pretty normal here. I think they just had her in a strange bra.
posted by delmoi at 5:40 PM on May 6, 2011


The pendulum swings from soft sell to hard sell and back again as everyone in the industry tries the "next big thing in advertising", the viewers/listeners/readers/target audiences get sick of one kind of ad being cranked out by everyone, tune it out until they see something novel and someone (or a bunch of someones) write a book about why the pendulum swing in the other direction is the only way that advertising works. Ogilvy falls in and out of favor every 8 years, it seems.

As an advertising book collector, I can't help but chime in with "Skip Ogilvy on Advertising!"

You want to read about real Mad Men era freakouts? Read From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor (the title from a headline pitched to Sony) and read about copywriter Jerry Della Femina being such a creative department prima donna and having his paychecks withheld because he wouldn't do his timesheets, so he hocked his typewriter at the pawn shop for about the amount of his paycheck and stapled the pawn shop ticket to the timesheet.

If you want to learn how advertising really works, read Where Suckers Moon, a gorgeous case study about the pitches, the win and the challenges of keeping a client through the Subaru case study in the '80s.

If you just want to gawk at the incredibly shallow and weird personalities in the industry through history, pick up a copy of Fox's Mirror Makers.

And some day, I'm going to write a book called Ogilvy on Toast, because after getting two degrees in advertising, teaching advertising, working in advertising, I find Ogilvy tedious at best.

Then again, what do I know? I look at his Man in the Hathaway Shirt campaign and think, "That worked? WTF."

Also, Old Spice sales went up after the campaign, but it wouldn't have taken much because anything that didn't literally say "Old Spice=Old Man" would have been more effective at what they were doing before.
posted by Gucky at 11:02 PM on May 6, 2011


delmoi, those are the before-she-was-famous photos, actually (she's quite young there, maybe 15). Later, she had a 17" waist, which she clearly doesn't have in those photos. But yes, bras and a Hollywood plastic surgeon hubby helped shape her.. er.. career.
posted by dabitch at 12:24 PM on May 7, 2011


Gucky, you totally forgot to mention Hey Whipple, Squeeze this (there's an excerpt here), which is a rather funny "how to" make good ads. And for reading the email from the shallow types, pick up "E". :)
posted by dabitch at 12:29 PM on May 7, 2011


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