Sunday, March 14, 2010

We Sell or Else. David Ogilvy ~ A History of A Pioneer.


Will Any Agency Hire This Man?

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.
            ~ From a memo to one of his partners

There is much to said about the pioneers of our business, but no more then the words and wisdom of the master David Ogilvy.

Was David Ogilvy a genius? In 1965 Fortune magazine concluded that he might be.
david ogilvy
David Ogilvy was born in 1911, next year would mark his 100th birthday, yet today his vice and his wisdom ring true.
How he ended up in advertising is still a story that remains legend.
As a young man and finishing his education, Ogilvy went to Paris, where he worked in the kitchen of the Hotel Majestic. He learned discipline, management - and when to move on: "If I stayed at the Majestic I would have faced years of slave wages, fiendish pressure, and perpetual exhaustion." He found his way back to England to sell cooking stoves, door-to-door for Aga Cookers where he crafed his sales skills. He sold stoves to nuns, drunkards, and everyone in between before his calling as a creative writer came to the surface when he wrote a sales guide for Aga salesmen (Fortune magazine called it "probably the best sales manual ever written"). He suggested, "The more prospects you talk to, the more sales you expose yourself to, the more orders you will get. But never mistake quantity of calls for quality of salesmanship."

His American journey began In 1938, when he went to work for George Gallup's Audience Research Institute in New Jersey. Ogilvy gives much of his learning at  Gallup as the one major influence on his thinking, placing emphasis meticulous research methods which would later be the soul of his advertising career and the cornerstone of the success of Hewitt, Ogilvy, Benson & Mather (which eventually became Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide) which he founded the New York in 1948 at that point he had never written an ad in his life.

In the first twenty years, Ogilvy won assignments from Lever Brothers, General Foods and American Express. Shell gave him their entire account in North America.

"I doubt whether any copywriter has ever had so many winners in such a short period of time," he wrote in his autobiography "Confessions of An Advertising Man". "They made Ogilvy & Mather so hot that getting clients was like shooting fish in a barrel."

In 1965, Ogilvy merged the agency with Mather & Crowther, his London backers, to form a new international company, and a year later he took the company public - one of the first advertising firms to do so. Soon Ogilvy & Mather had expanded around the world and was firmly in place as one of the top agencies in all regions.

Ogilvy retired as Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather in 1973 and moved to Touffou, in France. Legend has it that he was no longer involved in day-to-day operations of the agency, he remained in touch with the agency sending letters and correspondence to the offices worldwide, that he volume of mail handled in the nearby town of Bonnes, the post office was reclassified at a higher status and the postmaster's salary raised.

The retirement was short live when Ogilvy came out of retirement in the 1980 to serve as chairman of Ogilvy & Mather in India. He also spent a year acting as interim chairman of the O&M German office, commuting daily between Touffou and Frankfurt.

He would visited branch offices of the company around the world, and continued to represent Ogilvy & Mather at gatherings of clients and business audiences. In 1989, the Ogilvy Group was bought by WPP which made them the largest marketing communications holding company in the world, and David Ogilvy was named the company's non-executive chairman, a position he held until 1992 until his final retirement.

Ogilvy remains one of the most famous names in advertising and one of the handful of thinkers, Raymond Rubicam (Y&R), Leo Burnett, William Bernbach and Ted Bates. These are the men that shaped and built the advertising business.

David Ogilvy died on July 21, 1999 at his home in Touffou, France.

Quotable Ogilvy:

"A lawyer may be able to defend a murderer whom he knows is guilty, and a surgeon may be able to operate on a man he dislikes, but professional detachment doesn’t work in advertising."

"It’s better to reign in hell than serve in heaven."

"Advertising is a business of words, but advertising agencies are infested with men and women who cannot write. They cannot write advertisements, and they cannot write plans. They are helpless as deaf mutes on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera."

"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".

"Develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're going gaga."
The recently released biography "The King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy and the Making of Modern Advertising" by Ken Roman hit shelves in early 2009. This biography is based on a wealth of material from decades of working alongside the advertising giant, including a large collection of photos, memos, recordings, notes, and extensive archives of Ogilvy’s personal papers. The book describes the creation of some of history's most famous advertising campaigns.

The following video Roman takes us inside Ogilvy's mind and his world and offered some unique insights into the man gained by years working alongside the advertising giant.

The following interview which runs approximately 55 minutes was conducted by John Crichton in 1977. This full interview is full of advertising gems.

Source: Ogilvy Worldwide

1 comment:

Jamie Turner said...

Thank you so much for writing this post about David Ogilvy. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ogilvy on a number of occasions and it was always a great honor -- was was such an original.

I've written a similar article on the 60 Second Marketer with the intent of spreading the word about this genius. It's a great story about his management skills and style.

You can see the article on the 60 Second Marketer website here:

Jamie Turner

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