What The Greats Knew and We’ve Forgotten

From David Ogilvy’s book, “Ogilvy on Advertising” (with our own additions).

1. Do your homework: David said he wrote his classic ad about the Rolls Royce after spending 3 weeks reading the technical literature. We don’t have 3 weeks to do anything these days, but our advice would be: Know more about the product than the customer and you can be interesting. Know more about the product than the person who briefed you and you can sell your interesting work.

Verbal Identity examines the wisdom of the ancients.

a) Study the product: use it, wear it.

b) Visit the Factory: see what goes into it. Hear what doesn’t go into it.

c) Meet the people who designed it: Ask them what decisions they made. Ask them why it’s good. Ask them if it’s better.

d) Be interested and you’ll be interesting.

Manufacturers have the same resources, read the same magazines and have access to the same technology (eventually). What they don’t all have is YOU.

 2. ‘Positively good’ is enough. David pointed out that as all the manufacturers have the same access to what goes into a product, it’s rare to find a product which is truly better. Sometimes it’s enough for you to convince consumers that your product is positively good. “If the consumer feels certain that your product is good and feels uncertain about your competitors, he will buy yours.”

Good advice.

3. Know Your Client’s Ambition, but Define your Own. Not many of us go into writing a piece of work with a specific ambition in mind. But if we define an ambition, it has more chance of coming true. David’s advice: aim to knock the ball out of the park!

Our advice: Aim to knock the client out of his or her chair.

Chris worked for a Creative Director whose take on life was simple: everything is an argument. Every client meeting and every ad. His ambition was to win each argument. Convincingly.

4. Pursue knowledge: From the days of gout and King’s Surgeons, David posed the question: Who’d rather take out your gallstone: someone who’d read every book about medicine and surgery and practised every day, or someone who felt they were a natural. Read everything you can.

Our advice: Be the Expert in the Room. Experts are trusted. Experts do a better job.