Over the past several years, I’ve been studying the lives of men and women who’ve led their industries. In January, I had the pleasure of learning about legendary ad man David Ogilvy. Commonly referred to as “The Father of Advertising,” Ogilvy was a visionary marketing and advertising expert whose accomplishments make Don Draper’s career pale in comparison.
The more I dug into this man’s outlook and position on external communications, the more insights I found that lend themselves perfectly to the field of public relations.
David Ogilvy had a colorful way of making genius observations seem obvious. Many of his most famous quotes will strike a chord for those in the PR industry:
On knowing your target audience:
- “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 consumer isn’t a moron. She is your wife.”
- “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.”
On the creative process:
- “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ballpark. Aim for the company of immortals.”
- “I have a theory that the best ads come from personal experience. Some of the good ones I have done have really come out of the real experience of my life, and somehow this has come over as true and valid and persuasive.”
- “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.”
- “In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.”
On the competition:
- “Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.”
- “If you ever have the good fortune to create a great advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This is irritating, but don’t let it worry you; nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else’s advertising.”
- “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.”
- “Good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product.”
- “You now have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place.”
- “What you say in advertising is more important than how you say it.”
On building a business:
- “First, make yourself a reputation for being a creative genius. Second, surround yourself with partners who are better than you are. Third, leave them to go get on with it.”
- “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.”
- “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.”
I’ve found Ogilvy’s insights to be uniquely timeless. No matter the focus area or client industry, each of these points can be incredibly relevant and thought provoking for PR newbies and veterans alike. Mull them over and see how they might apply to your business.
If you’re interested in learning more about Ogilvy, I strongly recommend reading The Unpublished David Ogilvy.