Friday, February 26, 2010

david ogilvy on the future of advertising

There's been a lot of speculation lately about the ad agency of the future. Ironically, I've been reading a new book about an ad man from the past and I'm struck by the prescience of David Ogilvy. He famously insisted on the superiority of advertising that provides measurable results. Ogilvy, Benson and Mather (as it was then called) was the first ad agency to integrate direct marketing (the ancestor of digital) into traditional campaigns. His preference was informed, no doubt, by his experience as a door to door salesman. He began his career hawking stoves, of all things. Not exactly an impulse buy. (Especially to canny Scots in the depths of a Depression. He learned to go around to the back door, to sell the cook first because if she didn't buy in, there was no hope of making a sale to her employer.)

Here's a few Ogilvy mantras that ring as true today as they did in the typewriter era. (Ogilvy never actually used a typewriter, he wrote longhand using only freshly sharpened pencils. For other untold tales about D.O. from the POV of a man who worked with him for years, pick up Kenneth Roman's excellent--and first-- biography King of Madison Avenue.)

The public is more interested in personalities than corporations.

This never changes. The only time someone wants to talk to a corporation, is when they're trying to wangle a refund from it. It may be the age of "conversational marketing" but consumers won't engage with a monolith company unless they're given a reason to do so. (See Alan Wolk's now-famous post on this topic.)

It has been found that the less an advertisement looks like an advertisement, the more people will stop and look at it.

Hence the rise of embedded marketing, iphone apps, branded entertainment and widgets.

You aren't advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade.

Of course, the parade moves a lot faster now, and to many more places. Still, a brand message must move nimbly with it.

Every advertisement must contribute to the complex symbol which is the brand image.

A brand message has to live in myriad environments these days, but no matter where it goes, it must carry the same DNA and core values.

Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.

In his day it was "suboptimize." In our day it's "folksonomy" and "glocalisation" and other words meant to make consultants appear worthy of exorbitant day rates.

Advertising isn't an art form, it's a medium of information.

Ogilvy alienated some colleagues by speaking out against over-the-top TV production extravaganzas and awards. He was interested only in creating messaging that produced results for the client. Here's a pep talk he gave (virtually) to one of his direct response departments. Just substitute the word "digital" for "direct" and it makes for an informative webinar.


jimjosephexp said...

Amazing how relevant the advice still is! Thanks for posting. Jim Joseph

Amy said...

A rallying cry for Internet Marketers! Thanks for sharing

California Girl said...

I went from watching this to watching a 54 min conv with him in 1977 on YouTube.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Jim Joseph, Further proof that while the tools of selling have changed, the underlying principles of persuasion haven't.

Amy, wouldn't D.O. be in his bliss today, seeing rising emphasis on advertising with metrics. Another Ogilvyism: The most important word in advertising is "test."