‘Confessions of an Advertising Man’ a Must-Read for Marketing Majors

If you’re interested in working in the competitive field of advertising at an ad agency someday, then this is a must-read for you! Find out the secrets to David Ogilvy’s success and effective strategies to use in the workplace. Written by Juliet Rocco

Before the hoopla over Mad Men and Don Draper began, there was the original ad man, David Ogilvy himself. He’s been called the “Father of Advertising” and The New York Times has described him as “the creative force of modern advertising.”

Confessions of an Advertising Man has been regarded as one of advertising’s bibles. It is still used throughout agencies today and people still carry around these little red books, flipping through pages of undated knowledge.

“Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating.” – David Ogilvy

About David Ogilvy: He was born in West Horsley, England, in 1911. He enrolled in Fettes College, Edinburgh and Christ Church, Oxford, but was expelled and did not complete his degree as a result. He worked as an apprentice chef in Paris, was a door-to-door  salesman selling cooking stoves, and then came to the U.S. in 1938. He founded his agency in New York City with just two staff and no clients to start with. By the 1960’s, Ogilvy and Mather was one of the top international agencies in the business. Today, they are a world-renowned agency.

Reading highlights: 

  • Admit your own mistakes before you’re charged with them.
  • To become a successful agency/advertiser, all it takes is one successful account before others will follow and bring you business.
  • Never write your copy ENTIRELY IN CAPS, because we’ve learned how to read in lowercase.
  • Become a good presenter. Clients will give you fifteen minutes to present why they should choose you, but if you have trouble speaking in front of people, you will need to learn how to overcome your fears and win them over.
  • When writing a headline, avoid “puns, literary allusions, and other obscurities.” Ogilvy refers to this as a “sin.”
  • Understand your client by immersing yourself in their interests/lifestyle. Take a walk in their shoes to fully grasp their thought processes and then you will understand how to communicate to them effectively.
  • Be patient in the agency world when you’re young and just starting out. You will earn respect by being a good listener and admitting your own faults.

Critique: While this book was originally published in 1963, it certainly reflects the Mad Men era and idealizes the ‘working man,’ often leaving out women. In the most current edition, however, Ogilvy addresses this issue and how much times have changed since. I’m glad the book has been reprinted and updated numerous times because although minor details may change, the overall message remains the same.

“Big ideas are usually simple ideas.” – David Ogilvy

Takeaway: Get a better understanding of what really goes on inside the mind of a creative, advertising genius. You can get Confessions of an Advertising Man online at bn.com or amazon.com.

Source: Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy (reprint 2010)

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