What I’ve learned from the book Ogilvy on Advertising

What I’ve learned from the book Ogilvy on Advertising

David Ogilvy’s book – Ogilvy on Advertising was published in 1982 and I’ve been having this book in my library from more than 10 year. I don’t know why I didn’t read it before, but I’m glad that I finally had time to read it. Although the book speaks a lot about print and TV advertising (and direct mail – that  Ogilvy considers it “my first love and secret weapon”), I think a lot of the advices from this book are available for digital marketer from our days.

Here’s what I liked from this book, although it was hard from me not to try to put whole pages as recommendations.


The important part if you want to create advertising that sells is to know how to position your product. We tend to forget this when we create loads of digital campaigns/messages/ads/landing pages/videos/posts  you name it.

Positioning – this curious verb is in great favour among marketing experts, but no two of them agree what it means. My own definition if ‘what the product does, and who it if for’. I could have positioned Dove as a detergent bar for men with dirty hands, but chose instead to position it as a toilet bar for women with dry skin. This is still working 24 years later.

Leadership & discipline works

Great leadership can have an electrifying effect on the performance of any corporation. (…) the best leaders are apt to be found among those executives who have a strong component of unorthodoxy in their characters. Instead of resisting innovation, they symbolize it – and companies cannot grow without innovation.

Insist that your people arrive on time, even if you have to pay them a bonus to do so. Be eternally vigilant about the security of your clients’ secrets (…) Sustain unremitting pressure on the professional standards of your staff. It is suicide to settle for second-rate performance.

On client relationships
It is bad manners to use products which compete with your clients’ products.

How to get clients

The easiest way to get new clients is to do good advertising.
At the meeting when you make your presentation, don’t sit the client’s team on a side of the table and your team opposite, like adversaries. Mix everybody up.

On headlines for print advertising
The headlines which work best are those which promise the reader a benefit – like whiter wash, miles per gallon, freedom from pimples.
Specifics work better than generalities.
When you put your headline in quotes, you increase recall by an average of 28%

Learn from Procter & Gamble
-always promise the consumer one important benefit
-they believe that the first duty of advertising is to communicate effectively, not to be original or entertaining
-all their commercials include a ‘moment of confirmation’
-in 60% of their commercials they use demonstrations
-their commercials talk directly to the consumer, using language and situations that are familiar to her.
-their commercials deliver the promise verbally, and reinforce it with supers.

About marketing
Don’t waste time on problem babies
Most marketers spend too much time worrying about how to revive products which are in trouble, and too little time worrying about how to make successful products even more successful.  Concentrate your time, your brains, and your advertising money on your successes.

I once heard Marvin Bower define marketing as objectivity. I cannot beat that – David Ogivly.