Ogilvy on Advertising | David Ogilvy


Published in: 1985

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David Ogilvy (1911-1999) was a British advertiser who founded the advertising agency Ogilvy in 1948. He has been called “the father of advertising” and is considered one of the most successful in the industry during the 20th century. In this book, Ogilvy shares practical tips and his view on the future of advertising.

VALUE IS PERCIEVED. Consumers buy products whose marketing promises them value for money, beauty, nutrition, reduced suffering and / or social status. This is a universal law. Brand choice is an extension of the consumer’s personality.

“There isn’t any significant difference between the various brands of whiskey, or cigarettes or beer. They are all about the same. And so are the cake mixes and the detergents, and the margarines… The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit.”

GREAT IDEAS COME FROM THE SUBCONSCIOUS. Promise the customer to save them a problem in their lives and deliver. Do not use clichés: say something that people have never heard before. Advertising which promises no benefit to the consumer does not sell, yet most campaigns contain no promise whatsoever.

“It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. I doubt if more than one campaign in hundred contains a big idea” – David Ogilvy

STUDY AND TEST. Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals. Test your promise. Test your media. Test your headlines and your illustrations. Test the size of your advertisements. Test your frequency. Test your level of expenditure. Test your commercials. Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.

CONSISTENCY AND CLARITY. Marketing should give the same message year after year. Find out the central thesis and repeat it according to the motto “A confused mind says no”. Make sure that every part of the company, every color, is in line with what the brand stands for. If you, and all your competitors, are making an excellent product, do not try to suggest that your product is better. Say what’s good about your product – and do a cleaner, more honest and more informative job of saying it.

“It takes uncommon guts to stick to one style in the face of all the pressures to ‘come up with something new’ every six months. It is tragically easy to be stampeded into change. But golden rewards await the advertiser who has the brains to create a coherent image, and the stability to stick with it over a long period.”

FOCUS ON THE FEELING. If it looks cheap it will spread to the experience of the product. One study gave distilled water to test subjects and told some of them that it was distilled water. Most said it had no taste. Other students were told that the distilled water came from the tap. Most said it tasted awful. The mention of “tap” created a feeling of chlorine. If the consumer knows that your product is good and feels insecure about your competitors, he will buy yours.

HEADLINES. On average, five times more people read the headline than the text itself. This means that if the title does not sell your product, you have wasted your money. Do not hide the message far down in the text that only one in ten reads – say it clearly in the title. Do not use silly formulations such as “fantastic”, “introducing” or “sudden”. Avoid superlatives like “our product is the best in the world” – it convinces no one.

LOGIC IS EXPENSIVE. “Resting metabolic rate” means that if you lie in bed all day and do not touch a muscle, the brain still consumes a lot of energy. The human brain does not perform much logical thinking. We can be logical whenever we want but on an average day we will act on pure instinct. The brain has wisely developed processes to exclude most of them so as not to get redundant with information. To succeed as a company, you must ensure that advertising is not the one that is excluded. There are four things that get the buyer on the hook: (1) limited edition, (2) limited supply, (3) last time at this price, (4) extra price for urgent business.

”At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”

IF IT DOESN’T SELL, IT ISN’T CREATIVE. If you are trying to persuade people to do something or to buy something, you should use the language they use every day. Do not try to reach everyone. Try to reach about 20%. Advertising does not have to look like ads. If they look like editorial pages, you will attract about 50% more readers. The best ideas come as jokes – make your thinking as fun as possible. The listener’s brain does not have to work so hard to process a story.

WRITING – BE SPECIFIC. Talking in general makes no one interested. Bored people go elsewhere. Describe colors, use first names. Say “you” or “your”. Do not speak to your readers as if they were gathered in an arena. When people read your copy, they are alone. Create the feeling that you are writing to each of them on behalf of your client. One cliché and they stop reading. Tell your potential client what your weaknesses are before announcing them. This will make you more credible when you brag about your strong points: (1) give examples to sharpen the descriptions, (2) include anecdotes to give color, (3) quotes from experts give authority, (4) case studies back up the arguments, (5) mixing between long and short sentences keeps the reader awake and (6) avoiding repetition.

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