Moskel Consulting & Marketing

Direct Response Copywriting Solutions.

The Wisdom of David Ogilvy


Learn Everything You Need to Succeed in Advertising in 15 Minutes*

(*David Ogilvy Quotes)

==>We see farther by standing on the shoulders of the giants
who came before us.

Please enjoy.

-Jesse Moskel


The Best of David Ogilvy
Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of

It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers
and get them to buy your product.Unless your advertising
contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.
I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a
big idea.

The most important decision is how to position your product.

A lot of today’s campaigns are based on optimum positioning
but are totally ineffective – because they are dull, or
badly constructed, or ineptly written. If nobody reads your
advertisement or looks at your commercial, it doesn’t do you
much good to have the right positioning.

‘Making the logo twice the size’ is often a good thing to
do, because most advertisements are deficient in brand
identification. ‘Showing the clients’ faces’ is also a
better stratagem than it may sound, because the public is
more interested in personalities than in corporations. Some
clients can be projected as human symbols of their own

It has been found that the less an advertisement looks like
an advertisement, and the more it looks like an editorial,
the more readers stop, look and read. Therefore, study the
graphics used by editors and imitate them. Study the
graphics used in advertisements, and avoid them.

Most readers look at the photograph first. If you put it in
the middle of the page, the reader will start by looking in
the middle. Then her eye must go up to read the headline;
this doesn’t work, because people have a habit of scanning
downwards. However, suppose a few readers do read the
headline after seeing the photograph below it. After that,
you require them to jump down past the photograph which they
have already seen. Not bloody likely.

Dr. Gallup reports that if you say something which you don’t
also illustrate, the viewer immediately forgets it. I
conclude that if you don’t show it there is no point in
saying it. Try running your commercial with the sound turned
off; if it doesn’t tell without sound, it is useless.

One of the most brilliant colleagues I ever had was
black-balled by three clients in one year; the experience
hurt him so badly that he left the agency business for ever.
If you are too thin-skinned to survive this hazard, you
should not become an account executive in an advertising

In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a
creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you

We sell – or else.

No sale, no commission. No commission, no eat. That made an
impression on me.

You can’t save souls in an empty church.

If you, my fellow copywriters or art directors, want to win
the award, devote your genius to making the cash register

What most clients want most from us is great campaigns, with
the spark to ignite sales and the staying power to build
enduring brands. We put the creative function at the top of
our priorities.

The line between pride in our work and neurotic obstinacy is
a narrow one. We make our recommendations clear. But we do
not grudge our clients the right to the final say. It is
their money.

“We exist to build the business of our clients. The
recommendations we make to them should be the
recommendations we would make if we owned their companies,
without regard to our own short-term interest,” he said.
“This earns their respect, which is the greatest asset we
can have”.

We try to create an atmosphere in which partnerships with
our clients can flourish. We attach importance to discretion
— clients don’t appreciate agencies that leak their secrets.
We do not take credit for our clients’ successes. To get
between a client and the footlights is bad manners.

I once found myself conspiring with a British Cabinet
Minister as to how we might persuade Her Majesty’s Treasury
to cough up more money for the British Travel advertising in
America. Said he, “Why does any American in his senses spend
his vacation in the cold damp of an English summer when he
could equally well bask under Italian skies? I can only
suppose that your advertising is the answer.” Damn right.

While you are responsible to your clients for sales results,
you are responsible to consumers for the kind of advertising
you bring into their homes.

I abhor advertising that is blatant, dull, or dishonest.
Agencies which transgress this principle are not widely

Never run an advertisement you would not want your own
family to see.

Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your
own family to read.

You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to

People don’t buy a new detergent because the manufacturer
told a joke on television last night.

I prefer the discipline of knowledge to the chaos of

We prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of
ignorance. We pursue knowledge the way a pig pursues

Great hospitals do two things. They look after patients, and
they teach young doctors. We look after clients, and we
teach young advertising people.

Do not summon people to your office – it frightens them.
Instead go to see them in their offices. This makes you
visible throughout the agency. A Chairman who never wanders
about his agency becomes a hermit, out of touch with his

The most important word in the vocabulary of advertising is
TEST. Test your promise. Test your media. Test your
headlines and your illustrations. Test the size of your
advertisements. Test your frequency. Test your level of
expenditure. Test your commercials. Never stop testing, and
your advertising will never stop improving.

If you pretest your product with consumers, and pretest your
advertising, you will do well in the marketplace.

You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are
advertising to a moving parade. Three million consumers get
married every year. The advertisement which sold a
refrigerator to those who got married last year will
probably be just as successful with those who’ll get married
next year. An advertisement is just like a radar sweep,
constantly hunting new prospects as they come into the
market. Get a good radar and keep it sweeping.

Supposing you’ve got an acute appendicitis. You’ve got to be
operated on tonight. Would you like to have a surgeon who’s
read some books of anatomy and knows how to do that
operation – or would you prefer to have a surgeon who
refused to read all books about anatomy and relied on his
own instinct?

Candor compels me to admit that I have no conclusive
research to support my view that jingles are less persuasive
than the spoken word. You’d run like hell if a salesman came
to your door and began singing at you. Why do it in

If we hire people who are smaller than we are, we will
become a company of dwarfs. If we hire people who are larger
than we are, we’ll become a company of giants.

Some of our people spend their entire working lives in
Ogilvy & Mather. We try to make it a stimulating and happy
experience. We put this first, believing that superior
service to our clients depends on the high morale of our men
and women. We help them make the best of their talents. We
invest an awful lot of time and money in training — perhaps
more than any of our competitors.

We see no conflict between adherence to high professional
standards in our work and human kindness in our dealings
with each other. We treat our people as human beings.

I believe in the Scottish proverb: ‘Hard work never killed a
man.’ Men die of boredom, psychological conflict and
disease. They do not die of hard work.

I figure that my staff will be less reluctant to work
overtime if I work longer hours than they do.

Agencies which frequently work nights and weekends are more
stimulating, more successful – and more profitable.

Lazy and superficial men and women do not produce superior

Ogilvy & Mather – one company, indivisible.

The top man has one principle responsibility – to provide an
atmosphere in which creative mavericks can do useful work.

Ninety-nine percent of advertising doesn’t sell much of

The pursuit of excellence is less profitable than the
pursuit of bigness but it can be more satisfying.

Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as
generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.

Set exorbitant standards, and give your people hell when
they don’t live up to them. There is nothing so demoralizing
as a boss who tolerates second rate work.

The psychiatrists say that everybody should have a hobby.
The hobby I recommend is advertising.

L. Mencken once said that nobody ever went broke
underestimating the taste of the American public. That is
not true. I have come to believe that it pays to make all
your layouts project a feeling of good taste, provided that
you do it unobtrusively. An ugly layout suggests an ugly
product. There are very few products which do not benefit
from being given a first class ticket through life.

Most headlines are set too big to be legible in the
magazines or newspaper. Never approve a layout until you
have seen it pasted into the magazine or newspaper for which
it was destined. If you pin up the layouts on a bulletin
board and appraise them from fifteen feet, you will produce

The purpose of a commercial is not to entertain the viewer
but to sell him. Horace Schwerin reports that there is no
correlation between people liking commercials and being sold
by them. But this does not mean that your commercials should
be deliberately bad mannered. On the contrary, there is
reason to believe that it pays to make them human and
friendly, if you can do so without being unctuous.

Madison Avenue is full of masochists who unconsciously
provoke rejection by their clients. I know brilliant men who
have lost every account they have ever handled.

Raise your sights! Blaze new trails!! Compete with the

It takes uncommon guts to stick to one style in the face of
all the pressures to ‘come up with something new’ every six
months. It is tragically easy to be stampeded into change.
But golden rewards await the advertiser who has the brains
to create a coherent image, and the stability to stick with
it over a long period.

We take new business seriously, especially new business from
current clients. We have a passion for winning, but we play
fair vis-a-vis our competitors.

Shakespeare wrote his sonnets within a strict discipline,
fourteen lines of iambic pentameter rhyming in three
quatrains and a couplet. Were his sonnets dull? Mozart wrote
sonatas within an equally rigid discipline – exposition,
development, and recapitulation. Were they dull?

Look before you leap.

The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her
intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few
vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She
wants all the information you can give her.

I had a friend who was the King’s surgeon in England. One
day I asked him what makes a great surgeon. He replied,
“What distinguishes a great surgeon is his knowledge. He
knows more than other surgeons. During an operation he finds
something which he wasn’t expecting, recognizes it and knows
what to do about it.” It’s the same thing with advertising
people. The good ones know more. How do you get to know
more? By reading books about advertising. By picking the
brains of people who know more than you do. From the Magic
Lanterns. And from experience.

I can’t stand callow amateurs who aren’t sufficiently
interested in the craft of advertising to assume the posture
of students.

Training should not be confined to trainees. It should be a
continuous process, and should include the entire
professional staff of the agency. The more our people learn,
the more useful they can be to our clients.

Superior service to our clients depends on making the most
of our people. Give them challenging opportunities,
recognition for achievement, job enrichment and the maximum
responsibility. Treat them as grown-ups – and they will grow
up. Help them in difficulty. Be affectionate and human.

We help them make the best of their talents. We invest an
awful lot of time and money in training — perhaps more than
any of our competitors.

We treat our people as human beings. We help them when they
are in trouble — with their jobs, with illnesses, with
emotional problems, with drugs or alcohol.

We are opposed to management by intimidation. We abhor
ruthlessness. We like people with gentle manners. We see no
conflict between adherence to high professional standards in
our work and human kindness in our dealings with each other.

We don’t like rigid pecking orders. We give our executives
an extraordinary degree of independence, in the belief that
freedom stimulates initiative. We dislike issuing orders;
the best results are produced by men and women who don’t
have to be told what to do.

We like people who are honest. Honest in argument, honest
with clients, honest with suppliers, honest with the company
— and above all, honest with consumers.

I admire people with gentle manners who treat other people
as human beings. I abhor quarrelsome people. I abhor people
who wage paper-warfare.

I despise toadies who suck up to their bosses; they are
generally the same people who bully their subordinates.

Few of the great creators have bland personalities. They are
cantankerous egotists, the kind of men who are unwelcome in
the modern corporation.

We admire people who speak their minds. At the same time we
admire people who listen more than they talk, and make a
real effort to understand views that differ from their own.
Candor is a virtue; arrogance is not.

If you ever find a man who is better than you are – hire
him. If necessary, pay him more than you pay yourself.

In most agencies, account executives outnumber the
copywriters two to one. If you were a dairy farmer, would
you employ twice as many milkers as you had cows?

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

To keep your ship moving through the water at maximum
efficiency, you have to keep scraping the barnacles off its
bottom. It is rare for a department head to recommend the
abolition of a job, or even the elimination of a man; the
pressure from below is always for adding. If the initiative
for barnacle-scraping does not come from management,
barnacles will never be scraped.

It is the inescapable duty of management to fire incompetent

Nowadays it is the fashion to pretend that no single
individual is ever responsible for a successful advertising
campaign. This emphasis on “teamwork” is bunkum – a
conspiracy of the mediocre majority.

I don’t believe in this specialisation. Who said that
there’s one breed of cat which is an account executive, and
then there are the creative people – and they are quite
different? This has been perpetuated by both sides for
years. It’s nonsense.

Develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way,
when you get old, people won’t think you’re going gaga.

You now have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand.
Image means personality. Products, like people, have
personalities, and they can make or break them in the market

Advertising is only evil when it advertises evil things.

First, make yourself a reputation for being a creative
genius. Second, surround yourself with partners who are
better than you are. Third, leave them to get on with it.

There are very few men of genius in advertising agencies.
But we need all we can find. Almost without exception they
are disagreeable. Don’t destroy them. They lay golden eggs.

The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as

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.

The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive
it will be.

On the average, five times as many people read the headline
as read the body copy. When you have written your headline,
you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.

What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the
content of your advertising, not its form.

I don’t know the rules of grammar. If you’re trying to
persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems
to me you should use their language.

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

It is flagrantly dishonest for an advertising agent to urge
consumers to buy a product which he would not allow his own
wife to buy.

It has taken more than a hundred scientists two years to
find out how to make the product in question; I have been
given thirty days to create its personality and plan its
launching. If I do my job well, I shall contribute as much
as the hundred scientists to the success of this product.

A good advertisement is one which sells the product without
drawing attention to itself.

If you ever have the good fortune to create a great
advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal
it. This is irritating, but don’t let it worry you; nobody
has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else’s

I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing
executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much
on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post
for support, rather than for illumination.

I always use my clients’ products. This is not toady-ism,
but elementary good manners.

Most agencies run scared, most of the time… Frightened
people are powerless to produce good advertising…If I were
a client, I would do everything in my power to emancipate my
agencies from fear, even to the extent of giving them
long-term contracts.

I avoid clients for whom advertising is only a marginal
factor in their marketing mix. They have an awkward tendency
to raid their advertising appropriations whenever they need
cash for other purposes.

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.

I never tell one client that I cannot attend his sales
convention because I have a previous engagement with another
client; successful polygamy depends upon pretending to each
spouse that she is the only pebble on your beach.

Like a midwife, I make my living bringing new babies into
the world, except that mine are new advertising campaigns.

You make the best products you can, and you grow as fast as
you deserve to.

Make sure you have a Vice President in charge of Revolution,
to engender ferment among your more conventional colleagues.

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 sales-manship.

I hate rules.

Always hold your sales meetings in rooms too small for the
audience, even if it means holding them in the WC. ‘Standing
room only’ creates an atmosphere of success, as in theatres
and restaurants, while a half-empty auditorium smells of

Many people – and I think I am one of them – are more
productive when they’ve had a little to drink. I find if I
drink two or three brandies, I’m far better able to write.

The secret of long life is double careers. One to about age
sixty, then another for the next thirty years.

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