#82/111: Confessions Of An Advertising Man

What is it about?

If you are interested in advertising you probably heard of David Ogilvy. He’s the master mind behind one of the greatest advertisements of the last century. In this book he talks about his work ethics, marketing research and how he ran his company.

What can I learn?

You can’t bore someone into buying: Although Ogilvy was one of the more conservative advertisers he knew that you need an interesting idea behind your ad. Your prospects should be energized by reading/watching your ad. You can’t sell them something, if they won’t buy it.

Promote hard work: Ogilvy discovered early that the corporate culture is essential for great work. He wanted a culture affected by hard work and not by politics. He said: “We admire people who work hard, who are objective and thorough. We detest office politicians, toadies, bullies and pompous asses. We abhor ruthlessness. The way up our ladder is open to everybody. In promoting people to top jobs, we are influenced as much by their character as anything else.

Research is important: Claude Hopkins was one of Ogilvy’s role models. He preached that you should eliminate the guessing process and work with testing and research. Ogilvy, who worked as a researcher at Gallup, never forgot this mantra.


Confessions Of An Advertising Man is a truly great book. Ogilvy is famous for his superb writing skills and it’s a pleasure to read this book. If you want to work in advertising you should read this book as soon as possible. Even for non-ad people this should be an interesting lecture.

How to create advertising that sells (by David Ogilvy)

Read: How to create advertising that sells

What can I learn?

Make your product great and beautiful: A great product allows you to promise great benefits which the product can actually deliver. In addition, your product should look beautiful. Man is a visual animal. If you product looks awful, they conclude that you product is awful.

Sell in the headline and caption: The most people scan pages. They see the headlines and captions. Don’t miss these opportunities to sell your product.

Use news: Often marketers neglect this opportunity (however bloggers often get it). How can you react to topical news? Imagine that there is big news on digital data theft. Depending on what you are selling, you could write an article about preventing data theft, release an ad that your servers are more secure or, if you have deeper knowledge, giving interviews to journalist.


This is a pretty remarkable ad. Firstly, Ogilvy & Mather understood in den 70ies that you can increase your sales if you give away valuable information. Secondly, the last paragraph is brilliant. They show you their 38 principles of successful advertising but say:

Ogilvy & Mather has developed a separate and specialized body of knowledge on what makes for success in advertising food products, tourist destinations, proprietary medicines, children’s product – and other classifications.

That is, you can tackle the problem on your own or hire experts who are specialized into these sectors and who can afford to give away valuable information for free.

(via 1,900 word ad “How to create advertising that sells” written by David Ogilvy)