What I Learned from David Ogilvy

“He is 38, and unemployed. He dropped out of college.
He has been a cook, a salesman, a diplomatist and a farmer.
He knows nothing about marketing and had never written any copy.
He professes to be interested in advertising as a career (at the age of 38!) and is ready to go to work for $5,000 a year.

I doubt if any American agency will hire him.

However, a London agency did hire him. Three years later he became the most famous copywriter in the world, and in due course built the tenth biggest agency in the world.

The moral: it sometimes pays an agency to be imaginative and unorthodox in hiring.”

Probably, the world's greatest copy writer... David Ogilvy never fails to inspire
Probably, the world’s greatest copy writer… David Ogilvy never compromised on his craft. Ever.                                 


In my quest to be a copy writer that never fails to surprise and delight, these words from David Ogilvy have ruthlessly guided me:

1) “I don’t know the rules of grammar … If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.” 

2) “It has been found that the less an advertisement looks like an advertisement and the more it looks like an editorial, the more readers stop, look, and read.”

3) “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.” 

4) “Do not address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing to each of them a letter on behalf of your client.” 

5) “Consumers [decide] to buy or not to buy [based on] the content of your advertising, not its form.” 

6) “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” 

7) “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.” 

8) “Good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product.” 

9) “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.” 

10) “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.” 

11) “Why should a manufacturer bet his money, perhaps the future of his company, on your instinct?” 

12) “Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.” 

13) “Training should not be confined to trainees. It should be a continuous process, and should include the entire professional staff of the agency. The more our people learn, the more useful they can be to our clients.”

14) “If you always hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If, on the other hand, you always hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.”  

15) “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.”

1 thought on “What I Learned from David Ogilvy”

  1. I particularly like #14 … I’d rather be the dwarf in the company of giants which has served me well in my career.
    Thanks Dennis for sharing this worthwhile list.

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