Notes
April 24, 2020

Ogilvy On Advertising

David Ogilvy
Reading Time: 9 Minutes

Ogilvy On Advertising

  • Consumers buy products whose advertising promises; value for money, beauty, nutrition, relief from suffering, or social status.

  • It isn't the whiskey that people choose; it's the image. The brand image is 90% of what the distiller has to sell.

  • Trying to use rational to persuade a consumer into choosing your brand doesn't work. You don't see Coca Cola advertising that Coke contains 50% more cola berries.

  • Sometimes the best idea is to showcase the product with utter simplicity. It takes courage because you may get accused of not being 'creative'.

  • When possible, make your product the hero of your advertising.

  • If you and your competitor make excellent products, don't try to imply that yours is better. Simply do a better job of highlighting the benefits of your product.

  • It's all about relevance. To show bosoms in a detergent ad would not sell detergent.

  • Don't assume subjects that interest you will interest your readers.

  • Readers tend to forget the product when you have a testimonial from a celebrity.

  • Testimonials from experts are persuasive. For example, a testimonial from an ex-burglar testifying that they'd never been able to crack a Chubb safe is powerful.

  • Always include the price of your products.

  • KISS – Keep It Stupid Simple.

  • If the issue is complicated, simplify it as much as you can.

  • Advertising is about converting the dream of your readers into action.

  • Instead of generalities, use percentages, time-elapsed, and dollars saved.

  • It's challenging to get people to donate money unless they know where it's going.

  • Procter & Gamble never spend their money on naming competing brands. They simply refer to them as, 'the other leading detergent'.

  • Advertisements must promise a benefit to the consumer, yet most don't.

  • Consumers judge the quality of a product on its price. The higher the price, the desirable it becomes in the eyes of the consumer.

  • Factual advertising sells better than advertising full of empty promises.

  • Most marketers spend too much time worrying about reviving troubled products, over considering how to make successful products even more so.

  • Most marketers are afraid of pricing their products above their competitors.

  • The consumer is not a moron.

  • If the consumer perceives the product to be inferior, they'll never repurchase it.

  • Highways with billboards have 3x as many accidents than those which don't.

  • The best way to increase the sales of a product is to improve the product.

  • Set aside money for advertising in a recession - Keynes.

  • Originality is the most dangerous word in advertising - Reeves.

  • I have never made the slightest effort to compose anything original - Mozart.

Ogilvy On Advertising Abroad

  • America is no longer the top nation professionally. The tortoises are overtaking.

  • British commercials tend to be less direct, less competitive, more subtle, nostalgic, funnier, and more entertaining.

  • Techniques which work well in the USA, don't work as well in the UK.

  • Charm works in advertising. If you write your headlines in French, readers will assume you are advertising France.

  • Highlight things that are unique to a specific country. People don't go halfway around the world to see things they can see at home.

Ogilvy On Advertising Research

  • Determining the pricing of a product is almost always guesswork.

  • The more you know about the product you're going to advertise, the more likely it is that you'll come up with a big idea for selling it.

  • Occasionally it pays to run separate campaigns. One addressed towards the top management, and the other to specialists who read trade publications.

  • In direct mail, testing is the name of the game.

  • Find out the advertising your competitors are doing, and with what success.

  • Find out how consumers think about your kind of product, the language they use to discuss it, and what promise would be most likely to make them buy it.

  • The most critical variables to be tested are; pricing, terms of payment, incentives, and the format of your advertisement.

  • On a study of 731 corporations, Northwestern University found that advertising had a positive influence of 2%~ on their stock price.

  • Those who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore enemy signals.

  • Always write two advertisements for your product, and test with both of them. Continue to run the ad, which converts the most readers.

  • It's not uncommon for a change in headlines to generate 5x or 10x returns.

  • Studies of the last six recessions have shown that companies which don't cut back their advertising budgets achieve greater increases in profits than those who do.

  • I used to start my questionnaires by asking, 'Which would you rather hear on the radio tonight - Jack Benny or a Shakespeare play?'. If they responded with Shakespeare, I knew they were lying, hence broke off the interview.

  • Researchers who inject bias into their reports do a lot of damage.

  • Advertising research is full of fads.

  • Opinion always lags behind reality.

Ogilvy On Commercials

  • Demonstrations which show the performance of your product convert well.

  • Show the viewer a problem they're familiar with, then show them how your product can help them solve it.

  • Commercials which use rational to persuade perform only slightly above average.

  • Commercials which include a significant amount of nostalgia, charm and sentimentality perform incredibly well.

  • Demonstrations are most effective when they compare a competing product.

  • Viewers assume celebrities have been bought when they provide testimonials.

  • Radio commercials must first get people to listen.

  • People get tired of listening to the same commercials, so make several.

  • The key to successful marketing is superior product performance - Harness.

  • I don't want you to tell me that you find my advertisement 'creative'. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product that I'm advertising - David Ogilvy.

  • If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative - Benton & Bowles Agency.

  • The more facts you tell, the more you sell – Dr Charles Edwards.

  • People don't buy from clowns - Claude Hopkins.


Ogilvy On Copywriting

  • 5x~ as many people read the headline as read the body copy.

  • If your headline doesn't sell your product, you've wasted 90% of your money.

  • Headlines which promise the reader a benefit work best. For example; 'How To Win Friends And Influence People', would attract above-average readership.

  • Your headline should do either of the following; promise a benefit, deliver news, offer a service, tell a story, recognise a problem, or quote a customer.

  • The body of your copy is occasionally read by more than 10% of a publication's readers, and it's that 10% who are interested in what you're selling.

  • Format your advertisements in this order; image, headline, and copy.

  • Ads with news are recalled 22%~ more than ads without news.

  • It doesn't matter whether your headline is long or short.

  • Specific copy performs better than general copy.

  • Headlines in quotes increase recall by 28%~.

  • Helpful copy is read by 75%~ more people than copy which is solely promotional.

  • Copywriters live in fear. Is it this time your copy will fail?

  • Crossheads should be written in such a way that skimmers get the main points.

  • Set your copy in black type on white paper.

  • Readers tend to skip from the headline of your advertisement to the voucher. So make your voucher a mini-advertisement in itself.

  • If a copywriter averages one hour a week of writing, they are exceptional.

  • Copywriters are the most important people in an agency.

  • People will read your copy alone, so pretend you're writing to them individually.

  • Write short sentences, short paragraphs, and avoid difficult words.

  • Tell your reader what your product will do for them with specifics.

  • Write your copy in the form of a story, with one line leading the other.

  • Avoid analogies; they're widely misunderstood.

  • Superlatives convince nobody. For example; 'Our Product Is The Best In The World'.

  • Long copy (more than 350 words) sells more than short copy.

  • Long copy conveys the impression you have something important to say.

  • A long piece of copy must grab your reader's attention from the first paragraph.

  • Headlines below the image are read by 10%~ more than headlines above the image.

  • If you make your advertisements look like articles you'll get 6x~ as many readers.

  • Pretend you're an editor to get better results.

  • Good typography helps people read your copy, while bad typography prevents that.

  • People are accustomed to reading books, magazines and newspapers in lowercase.

  • Never put full-stops at the end of a headline.

  • Typefaces which are easy to read, include; Century, Caslon, Baskerville and Jenson.

  • Sub-headlines gauge readers to dive deeper (between your headline and body copy).

  • Drop initials at the start of your body copy will increase readership by 13%~.

  • Limit your opening paragraph to 11 words (maximum).

  • Use crossheads to excite the reader to carry on after every 2-3 inches of copy.

  • Set key paragraphs in bold, or italics.

  • Help the reader into your paragraphs with bullet points, asterisks etc.

  • If you make a lot of unrelated facts, number them.

  • Size 11 font is just about right for your body copy.

  • Line spacing between paragraphs increases readership by 12%~.

  • Testimonials from fellow consumers make your product more credible.

  • It's possible to cast your entire advertisement in the form of a testimonial.

  • Short words are best - Winston Churchill.

  • There are no dull products, only dull writers - David Ogilvy.

Ogilvy On Getting A Job

  • The longer your memos, the less likely it is they'll get read by decision-makers.

  • You won't climb the ladder very high unless you can write lucid memoranda.

  • Stuff your mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process.

  • Ad writers forget they are salesmen and try to be performers.

  • Life's greatest achievements are achieved in an atmosphere of dynamic tension.

Ogilvy On Images

  • The images that work best are those which arouse the reader's curiosity.

  • In a study of 70 campaigns, there was not a single before-and-after campaign which failed to increase sales.

  • Images should be as simple as possible, with the focus on one person.

  • Never use an image without putting a caption underneath it.

  • Good images cost more than bad ones, but they also sell more.

  • 2x as many people read the captions under an image over the body copy. The best captions are those which are standalone mini-advertisements.

  • Mouth-watering images and specific how-to information is recommended.

Ogilvy On Political Advertising

  • The commercials for presidential candidates are uncontrolled and dishonest.

  • Political ads are protected under the first amendment of the constitution (USA).

Ogilvy On Starting An Agency

  • Creativity is not a function of size. Small can be beautiful.

  • It puzzles me as to why so few agencies advertise themselves.

  • The purpose of my ads was to project that we knew more about advertising.

  • There appears to be no correlation between leadership and academic achievement.

  • Great leaders can inspire people with their speeches. If you cannot write inspiring speeches, use a ghostwriter.

  • We never failed to win an account for which we competed, all we had to do was show the campaigns we had created.

  • You should not worry about the prices of your agency's service, but rather the value adds of the services you'll be providing.

  • You should tell your potential clients about your weak points before they notice them. It will make you more credible when you boast about your positives.

  • The day after a new business presentation, send the prospect a letter summarising the reasons why they should pick your agency.

  • If you get an account which also advertises overseas, you stand a good chance of getting it around the world (domino system of new business acquisition).

  • In most agencies, there are twice as many account executives as copywriters. If you were a dairy farmer, would you employ twice as many milkers as cows?

  • The creative man with an insight into human nature, with the artistry to touch and move people, will succeed - Bill.

  • In advertising, the beginning of greatness is to be different, and the beginning of failure is to be the same - Roy Whittier.

  • A friend asked Mr Wrigley, why with the lion's share of the market he continued to advertise. 'How fast do you think this train is going?', asked Mr Wrigley. 'I would say about 90 MPH'. Mr Wrigley replied, 'Well, do you suggest we unhitch the engine?'.

  • When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one. But, you won't come up with a handful of mud either - Leo Burnett.

  • Perfectionism spelt is paralysis - Winston Churchill.

  • Leaders must be optimistic and determined to persevere in the face of difficulties, even when they're uncertain of the outcome - Field Marshal Montgomery.

  • I always try to hire what JP Morgan calls, 'gentlemen with brains' - David Ogilvy.