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The Unpublished David Ogilvy by David Ogilvy is a collection—made by some of David Ogilvy’s colleagues—of many things that he has said or written but never published. It’s actually a gift that was given on David’s seventy-fifth birthday in 1986 at a boat party in London. The collection includes things such as notes, memos, letters, speeches and papers, lists, and so on…
I thought that Ogilvy On Advertising, which I really loved, contained everything that David knows and believes about advertising; however, this one has things that he, for some reason, left out from the books he actually wrote—perhaps, he thought they weren’t that important. Furthermore, this one contains his thoughts on subjects other than advertising.
The first chapter, called Early Years, has an amazing guide that he once wrote for his fellow door-to-door salesmen when he was a salesman himself for the AGA AB (a Swedish industrial gas company). Fortune said that it is “probably the best sales manual ever written”.
I particularly enjoyed the third chapter called Lists. David was very systematic, and it seems that he created lists for almost everything in his company from the qualifications he looks for when it comes to choosing leaders to learning how to write to the most useful books he knows on the subject of advertising.
The book finished with an interview at David’s home in France, which lasted three and a half hours. Unfortunately, the book features only a few excerpts from it.
The following summary of The Unpublished David Ogilvy by David Ogilvy is meant to be concise, reminding me of high-level concepts and not trying to recreate the whole book. This summary is basically a bunch of notes and lessons paraphrased or quoted directly from the book and does not contain my own thoughts.
• Every advertisement must tell the whole sales story because the public does not read advertisements in series.
• The copy must be human and very simple, keyed right down to its market – a market in which self-conscious artwork and fine language serve only to make buyers wary.
• Every word in the copy must count. Concrete figures must be substituted for atmospheric claims; clichés must give way to facts, and empty exhortations to alluring offers.
• Facetiousness in advertising is a device dear to the amateur but anathema to the advertising agent who knows that permanent success has rarely been built on frivolity and that people do not buy from clowns.
• Superlatives belong to the marketplace and have no place in a serious advertisement; they lead readers to discount the realism of every claim.
• Apparent monotony of treatment must be tolerated because only the manufacturer reads all his own advertisements.
• Study the methods of your competitors and do the exact opposite.
• Find out all you can about your prospects before you call on them; their general living conditions, wealth, profession, hobbies, friends and so on. Every hour spent in this kind of research will help you and impress your prospect.
• Avoid standardization in your sales talk. If you find yourself one fine day saying the same things to a bishop and a trapezist, you are done for.
• When the prospect tries to bring the interview to a close, go gracefully. It can only hurt you to be kicked out.
• Develop your eccentricities while you’re young. That way, when you get old, people won’t think you’re going gaga.
Notes, Memos, and Letters
• One of the most priceless assets Ogilvy & Mather can have is the respect of our clients and the whole business community.
• It is not enough for an agency to be respected for its professional competence. Indeed, there isn’t much to choose between the competence of the big agencies.
What so often makes the difference is the character of the men and women who represent the agency at the top level, with clients and the business community. If they are respected as admirable people, the agency gets business – whether from present clients or prospective ones.
• Get people alongside you who make up for your weaknesses.
• Don’t compound your own weaknesses by employing people in key positions who have the same weakness.
• Most of the fashionable hotspots in the creative departments of other agencies are nomads, birds-of-passage. It is not unusual for them to have worked at six agencies before they are thirty-two. What a turbulent, unsettling, dangerous way to live. I have no stomach for recruiting these unprincipled adventurers.
• My work habits as a copywriter. They are appalling, as you are about to see:
- I have never written an advertisement in the office. Too many interruptions. I do all my writing at home.
- I spend a long time studying the precedents. I look at every advertisement which has appeared for competing products during the past 20 years.
- I am helpless without research material – and the more “motivational” the better.
- I write out a definition of the problem and a statement of the purpose which I wish the campaign to achieve. Then I go no further until that statement and its principles have been accepted by the client.
- Before actually writing the copy, I write down every conceivable fact and selling idea. Then I get them organized and relate them to research and the copy platform.
- Then I write the headline. As a matter of fact, I try to write 20 alternative headlines for every advertisement. And I never select the final headline without asking the opinions of other people in the agency. In some cases, I seek the help of the research department and get them to do a split-run on a battery of headlines.
- At this point, I can no longer postpone doing the actual copy. So I go home and sit down at my desk. I find myself entirely without ideas. I get bad-tempered. If my wife comes into the room I growl at her. (This has gotten worse since I gave up smoking.)
- I am terrified of producing a lousy advertisement. This causes me to throw away the first 20 attempts.
- If all else fails, I drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy.
- Next morning I get up early and edit the gush.
- Then I take the train to New York and my secretary types a draft. (I cannot type, which is very inconvenient.)
- I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor. So I go to work editing my own draft. After four or five editings, it looks good enough to show to the client. If the client changes the copy, I get angry—because I took a lot of trouble writing it, and what I wrote I wrote on purpose.
• The qualifications I look for in our leaders are these:
- High standards of personal ethics.
- Big people, without prettiness.
- Guts under pressure, resilience in defeat.
- Brilliant brains – not safe plodders.
- A capacity for hard work and midnight oil.
- Charisma – charm and persuasiveness.
- A streak of unorthodoxy – creative innovators.
- The courage to make tough decisions.
- Inspiring enthusiasts – with thrust and gusto.
- A sense of humor.
• A memo to the creative directors of Ogilvy & Mather offices worldwide (July 1, 1979): Are you the greatest?
- Are you creating the most remarkable advertising in your country?
- Is this generally recognized, inside and outside your agency?
- Can you show new-business prospects at least four campaigns which electrify them?
- Have you stopped overloading commercials?
- Have you stopped singing the sales pitch?
- Do all your commercials start with a visual grabber?
- Have you stopped using cartoon commercials when selling to adults?
- Do you show at least six Magic Lanterns to everyone who joins your staff?
- If they don’t understand English, have you had all the Lanterns translated into their language?
- Do you repeat the brand name several times in every commercial?
- Have you stopped using celebrity testimonials in television commercials?
- Have you got a list of red-hot creative people in other agencies, ready for the day when you can afford to hire them?
- Do all your campaigns execute an agreed positioning?
- Do they promise a benefit – which has been tested?
- Do you always super the promise at least twice in every commercial?
- Have you had at least three Big Ideas in the last six months?
- Do you always make the product the hero?
- Are you going to win more creative awards than any other agency this year?
- Do you use problem-solution, humor, relevant characters, slice-of-life?
- Do you eschew life-style commercials?
- Do your people gladly work nights and weekends?
- Are you good at injecting news into your campaign?
- Do you always show the product in use?
- Does your house reel include some commercials with irresistible charm?
- Do you always show the package at the end?
- Have you stopped using visual clichés – like sunsets and happy families at the dinner table? Do you use lots of visual surprises?
- Do the illustrations in your print advertisements contain story appeal?
- Are you phasing out addy layouts and moving to editorial layouts?
- Do you sometimes use visualized contrast?
- Do all your headlines contain the brand name – and the promise?
- Are all your illustrations photographs?
- Have you stopped setting copy ragged left and right?
- Have you stopped using more than forty characters in a line of copy?
- Have you stopped setting copy smaller than 10 points and bigger than 12 points?
- Do you always paste advertisements into magazines or newspapers before you OK them?
- Have you stopped setting body copy in sans-serif?
- Have you stopped beating your wife?
If you can answer YES to all these questions, you are the greatest Creative Director on the face of the earth.
• Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:
- Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
- Write the way you talk. Naturally.
- Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs.
- Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
- Never write more than two pages on any subject.
- Check your quotations.
- Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning – and then edit it.
- If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
- Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
- If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.
• Somebody recently asked me for a list of the most useful books on advertising – the books that all our people should read. Here is what I sent her:
- Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins; Foreword by David Ogilvy. Crown Publishers.
- Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples; Foreword by David Ogilvy. Prentice-Hall.
- Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy. Atheneum Publishers.
- How to Advertise by Kenneth Roman and Jane Maas; Foreword by David Ogilvy. St Martin’s Press.
- Reality in Advertising by Rosser Reeves. Alfred Knopf.
- The Art of Writing Advertising by Bernbach, Burnett, Gribbin, Ogilvy & Reeves. Advertising Publications, Inc., Chicago.
- The 100 Best Advertisements by Julian Watkins. Dover Publications.
Speeches and Papers
• That is where research can help art directors. It can give you some indication as to the type of visual treatment which will deliver the most prospects per dollar
• Make it crystal clear to your agency that you aren’t looking for soft, gutless advertising. And that you aren’t looking for mere entertainment. Explain that you still want advertising with selling teeth in it. Honest teeth, but biting teeth.
• Every advertisement must be considered as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image – as part of the long-term investment in the reputation of the brand.
• I used to deride advertising men who talked about long-term effect. I used to accuse them of hiding behind long-term effect. I used to say that they used long-term effect as an alibi – to conceal their inability to make any single advertisement profitable. In those intolerant days, I believed that every advertisement must stand on its own two feet and sell goods at a profit on the cost of the space…
Today, I have come to believe, with Gardner and Levy, that every advertisement must be considered as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.
• I find that most manufacturers are reluctant to accept any such limitation on the image and personality of their brands. They want to be all things to all people. They want their brand to be a male brand and a female brand. An upper-crust brand and a plebeian brand. And in their greed, they almost always end up with a brand which has no personality of any kind – a wishy-washy neuter brand.
• What would you think of a politician who changed his public personality every year? Have you noticed that Winston Churchill has been careful to wear the same ties and the same hats for fifty years – so as not to confuse us?
• I am astonished to find how many manufacturers, on both sides of the Atlantic, still believe that women can be persuaded by logic and argument to buy one brand in preference to another – even when the two brands are technically identical. The greater the similarity between products, the less part reason plays in brand selection.
• The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most favorable image, the most sharply defined personality, is the one who will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit – in the long run.
• In our agency, we take a long view of our creative responsibilities. We plan ten years ahead, on the assumption that our clients are not out for a fast buck, but intend to stay in business forever. We try to create sharply defined personalities for our brands. And we stick to those personalities, year after year.
• We have exercised care in selecting our clients. That is why our roster is such a remarkable one.
• We seek clients who manufacture a product which we can be proud to advertise – a product which we can recommend without reservation to our own families.
• We see clients whose basic attitudes to business are about the same as ours. The agency-client relationship is an intimate one, and it only works well when there is a strong ingredient of mutual respect on both sides.
• We seek accounts on which we can make a profit. Ten years’ experience with cost accounting has taught us which kind of accounts are likely to be unprofitable; we avoid them.
• We want Ogilvy & Mather to be the best agency. That is one reason why we exercise so much restraint in controlling the speed of our expansion. We must avoid growing so rapidly that our standards of service would have to be diluted.
• I want the newcomers to know what kind of behavior we admire, and what kind of behavior we deplore:
- First, we admire people who work hard. We dislike passengers who don’t pull their weight in the boat.
- We admire people with first-class brains because you cannot run a great advertising agency without brainy people.
- We admire people who avoid politics – office politics, I mean.
- We despise toadies who suck up to their bosses; they are generally the same people who bully their subordinates.
- We admire the great professionals, the craftsmen who do their jobs with superlative excellence. We notice that these people always respect the professional expertise of their colleagues in other departments.
- We admire people who hire subordinates who are good enough to succeed them. We pity people who are so insecure that they feel compelled to hire inferior specimens as their subordinates.
- We admire people who build up and develop their subordinates because this is the only way we can promote from within the ranks. We detest having to go outside to fill important jobs, and I look forward to the day when that will never be necessary.
- We admire people who practice delegation. The more you delegate, the more responsibility will be loaded upon you.
- We admire kindly people with gentle manners who treat other people as human beings – particularly the people who sell things to us. We abhor quarrelsome people. We abhor people who wage paper welfare. We abhor buck passers and people who don’t tell the truth.
- We admire well-organized people who keep their offices shipshape and deliver their work on time.
- We admire people who are good citizens in their communities – people who work for their local hospitals, their church, the PTA, the Community Chest and so on.
• Don’t overstaff your departments. People enjoy life most when they have the most work to do.
• 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.
• When your people turn in an exceptional performance, make sure they know you admire them for it.
• Don’t let your people fall into a rut. Keep leading them along new paths, blazing new trails. Give them a sense of adventurous pioneering.
• Do your best to educate your people, so that they can be promoted as rapidly as possible.
• Delegate. Throw your people in over their heads. That is the only way to find out how good they are.
• Seek advice from your subordinates, and listen more than you talk.
• Make sure that you are getting the most out of all your people. Men and women are happiest when they know that they are giving everything they’ve got.
• I make no apology for having established a set of creative principles, but I cannot believe that they represent the last word. I am hungry for younger creative people to come along and enlarge our philosophies.
• There is no great trick to doing research. The problem is to get people to use it – particularly when the research reveals that you have been making mistakes. We all have a tendency to use research as a drunkard uses a lamppost – for support, not for illumination.
• A very large part of what students and teachers do in the best colleges and universities is sheer waste.
• The strength of a college can be measured by the number of subjects it refuses to teach.
• If you are going to be a businessman, you won’t get far unless you can write lucid reports
• Knowledge is useless unless you know how to communicate it – in writing.
• The harder your people work, the happier they will be. I believe in the Scottish proverb: “Hard work never killed a man.” Men die of boredom, psychological conflict, and disease. They never die of hard work.
• I am a stickler for meeting deadlines. I can do almost any job in one weekend. I think everyone can. The trouble is that most chaps are too lazy to burn the midnight oil. They are unwilling to rise to the occasion.
On the other hand, I believe in lots of vacations. When one of my partners gets abrasive, it is usually because he has worked too long without a vacation.
• When people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work. Kill grimness with laughter. Encourage exuberance. Get rid of sad dogs who spread gloom.
• In our kind of business, it is awfully difficult to evaluate people in terms of their performance. What criteria can we use? “Systematic employee performance ratings?” The evaluations are inevitably subjective. So how can we decide what to pay our senior people?
I am beginning to think that we should follow the example of Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts, the law firm. They pay all their partners the same, and they have been doing so since the 1880’s. They figure that the young partners need as much money as the old ones, and probably more.
By paying all the partners the same, they remove the major cause of that sibling rivalry which causes such hellish politics in a service business; they also eliminate the impossible chore of evaluating performance at the partner level.
• When a service business grows big, it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain high professional standards. You have to operate systems of quality control.
• If I were Chairman of American Express or head of one of your Divisions, I would keep asking myself eight questions:
- Do I encourage my people to bombard me with new ideas? Is the atmosphere around here creative and innovative, or dull and bureaucratic? Walter Wriston recently said, “There’s no reason you can’t have an innovative bureaucracy if you put out the word that fame and fortune come from rocking the boat.” Creativity and innovation function best in an atmosphere of fun and foment. Creativity hardly functions at all in an atmosphere of politics and fear.
- I would ask myself, “Are we operating as a team, as a band of brothers? Or are we competing with each other like silly babies?”
- Are we freewheeling entrepreneurs, ready to take risks in new ventures? Or are we too frightened of making mistakes? When the toy-buyer at Sears made a mistake which cost his company 10 million bucks, I asked the head of Sears, “Are you going to fire him?” “Hell no,” he replied, “I fire people who don’t make mistakes.”
- Are we devoting too much time and money to salvaging our flops, our dry holes – and not enough to exploiting our breakthroughs?
- Are we leaders or followers? Do our competitors imitate us, or do we imitate them? You may remember Kipling’s long poem about Sir Anthony Gloster, the old shipping tycoon. On his deathbed, he is telling his son about his competitors: “They copied all they could follow, But they couldn’t copy my mind. And I left ’em sweating and stealing, A year and a half behind.”
- Are we trying hard enough to create new products? How does our Research & Development compare with Merck, who invested $227 million in R&D last year? That’s about eight percent of their sales. IBM invests one billion dollars a year in R&D. In some companies, it is easier to get a hundred million for an acquisition than one million for a new product.
- How do we stand with our customers – present and prospective? As long as we are rated tops by the consumers of our products, our position in the marketplace is unassailable…
- What are the Japanese up to? If they can outperform us in electronics and steel and even automobiles, don’t be surprised if one day they become a major threat to your business. The Japanese have four advantages over us in the West: (A) They take more interest in their employees. They have a saying, “Man, not the bottom line, is the measure of all things.” It seems to work. (B) They don’t have so many lawyers – one lawyer for every 10,000 people in Japan compared with twenty lawyers for every 10,000 people in the U.S. (C) They don’t put their wise men out to pasture at the age of sixty-five—This particularly appeals to me. (D) They aren’t so obsessed with short-term profit. Short-term profits? What’s so great about short-term profits? I’ll tell you. They impress the jackasses on Wall Street. Ten years ago they valued your shares at $40. Today you are making five times as much profit, and they value your shares at $43. Can’t you find a way to emancipate your company from the stock market? There’s a challenge!
• As a copywriter, what I want from the researchers is to be told what kind of advertising will make the cash register ring. A creative person who knows nothing about plus and minus factors, and refuses to learn, may sometimes luck into a successful campaign. A blind pig may sometimes find truffles, but it helps to know that they grow under oak trees.
• Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith, and perseverance to create a brand. The financial rewards do not always come in next quarter’s earnings per share but come they do.
• There used to be a prosperous brand of coffee called Chase & Sanborn. Then they started dealing. They became addicted to price-offs. Where is Chase & Sanborn today? In the cemetery. Dead as a doornail.
• The manufacturers who dedicate their advertising to building the most favorable image, the most sharply defined personality for their brand, are the ones who will get the largest share of market at the highest profit.
• Deals don’t build the kind of indestructible image which is the only thing that can make your brand part of the fabric of American life.
• Promotions cannot produce more than a temporary kink in the sales curve.
• A cut-price offer can induce people to try a brand, but they return to their habitual brands as if nothing had happened.
• Why are so many brand managers addicted to price-cutting deals? Because the men who employ them are more interested in next quarter’s earnings than in building their brands. Why are they so obsessed with next quarter’s earnings? Because they are more concerned with their stock options than the future of their company.
Principles of Management” and “Corporate Culture”
Principles of Management
• Ogilvy & Mather is not a mere holding company for a group of independent agencies in different countries. It is one agency indivisible. Our clients must see no basic differences of style between any of our offices. Ogilvy & Mather must never become a company of incompetent amateurs in one country, superb professionals in a second, waffling bumblers in a third.
• Ogilvy & Mather is dedicated to seven purposes:
- To serve our clients more effectively than any other agency.
- To earn an increased profit every year.
- To maintain high ethical standards.
- To run the agency with a sense of competitive urgency.
- To keep our services up-to-date.
- To make Ogilvy & Mather the most exciting agency to work in.
- To earn the respect of the community.
• Profit is not always synonymous with billing. We pursue profit – not billing. The chief opportunities for increasing our profit lie in:
- Increasing income from present clients.
- Getting new clients.
- Separating passengers without delay.
- Discontinuing boondoggles and obsolete services: 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 scrapped.
- Avoiding duplication of function – two men doing a job which one can do.
- Increasing productivity.
- Reducing wheel-spinning in the creative area.
- Putting idle capital to work.
• Advertising agencies are fertile ground for office politics. You should work hard to minimize them because they take up energy which can better be devoted to our clients; some agencies have been destroyed by internal politics. Here are some ways to minimize them:
- Always be fair and honest in your own dealings; unfairness and dishonesty at the top can demoralize an agency.
- Never hire relatives or friends.
- Sack incurable politicians.
- Crusade against paper warfare. Encourage your people to air their disagreements face-to-face.
- Discourage secrecy.
- Discourage poaching.
- Compose sibling rivalries.
• I want all our people to believe that they are working in the best agency in the world. A sense of pride works wonders.
• The best way to “install a generator” in a man is to give him the greatest possible responsibility. Treat your subordinates as grown-ups – and they will grow up. Help them when they are in difficulty. Be affectionate and human, not cold and impersonal.
• It is vitally important to encourage free communication upward. Encourage your people to be candid with you. Ask their advice – and listen to it.
• Senior men and women have no monopoly on great ideas. Nor do Creative people. Some of the best ideas come from account executives, researchers and others. Encourage this; you need all the ideas you can get.
• Encourage innovation. Change is our lifeblood, stagnation our death knell.
• 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. An office head who never wanders about the agency becomes a hermit, out of touch with the staff.
• The physical appearance of our offices is important because it says so much about Ogilvy & Mather. If they are decorated in bad taste, we are yahoos. If they look old-fashioned, we are fuddy-duddies. If they are too pretentious, we are stuffed shirts. If they are untidy, we are inefficient. Our offices must look efficient, contemporary, cheerful and functional.
• Security must be policed. Indiscretion in elevators and restaurants, premature use of typesetters and Photostat houses, premature display of new campaigns on bulletin boards and indiscreet gossip can do serious damage to our clients and even lose accounts.
• It is also the duty of our top people to sustain unremitting pressure on the professional standards of their staffs. They must not tolerate sloppy plans or mediocre creative work. In our competitive business, it is suicide to settle for second-rate performance.
• Training should not be confined to trainees. It should be a continuous process and should include the entire professional staff at the agency. The more our people learn, the more useful they can be to our clients.
• One of the most priceless assets Ogilvy & Mather can have is the respect of our clients and of the whole business community. This comes from the following:
- Our offices must always be headed by the kind of people who command respect. Not phonies, zeros or bastards.
- Always be honest in your dealings with clients. Tell them what you would do if you were in their shoes.
- If we do a good job for our clients, that will become known. We will smell of success, and that will bring us respect.
- If we treat our employees well, they will speak well of Ogilvy & Mather to their friends. Assuming that each employee has 100 friends, 250,000 people now have friends who work for Ogilvy & Mather. Among them are present and prospective clients.
- In meeting with clients, do not assume the posture of servants. They need you as much as you need them.
- While you are responsible to your clients for sales results, you are also responsible to consumers for the kind of advertising you bring into their homes. Your aim should be to create advertising that is in good taste. I abhor advertising that is blatant, dull, or dishonest. Agencies which transgress this principle are not widely respected.
- We must pull our weight as good citizens.
• The challenge is to recruit people who are able enough to do the difficult work our clients require from us.
- Make a conscious effort to avoid recruiting dull, pedestrian hacks.
- Create an atmosphere of ferment, innovation, and freedom. This will attract brilliant recruits.
• If you ever find a man who is better than you are – hire him. If necessary, pay him more than you pay yourself.
• Each Ogilvy & Mather office is a partnership of individual practitioners. Our growth depends on our ability to develop a large cadre of able partners.
• Each of our offices has a managing partner. The total responsibility for the office rests on his shoulders. However, if he is wise, he will treat his lieutenants as equals.
If he treats them as subordinates, they will be less effective in their jobs; they will come to resent their subordination – and leave. Only second-raters accept permanent subordination.
For this reason, our Top Management in each country should function as a round table, presided over by a managing partner who is big enough to be effective in the role of primus inter pares, without having to rely on the overt discipline of a military hierarchy – with its demeaning pecking order.
• Egalitarian structure encourages independence, responsibility, and loyalty. It reduces the agency’s dependence on ONE MAN, who is often fallible, sometimes absent and always mortal. It ensures continuity of style from generation to generation.
• No office in the Ogilvy & Mather group has a monopoly on brains. The more we bring the resources of our offices to bear on each other’s problems, the better. This requires close liaison at many levels; it also requires that each of our agencies conquer their chauvinism.
If we help each other, the sum of our individual parts will give us a competitive advantage over international agencies which allow iron curtains to separate their offices from each other.
• It is as difficult to sustain happy partnerships as it is to sustain happy marriages. The challenge can be met if those concerned practice these restraints:
- Have clear-cut divisions of responsibility.
- Don’t poach on the other fellow’s preserves.
- Live and let live; nobody is perfect.
- “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
• It is impossible for our office heads to carry the whole load of leadership single-handed. Their partners and department heads must be islands of leadership – inspiring, explaining, disciplining and counseling.
• In selecting heads of service departments, it is not always wise to select those whose professional qualifications are the best; outstanding professionals do not always turn out to be good leaders. It is often better to give management jobs on the basis of leadership ability, leaving the professionals to practice their profession.
This is particularly true in the creative area. Some of the best copywriters and art directors make poor Creative Directors. If you give them recognition in terms of salary and glory, you can persuade them to let others pass them on the administrative ladder, while they continue to create the campaigns on which the whole agency depends.
• The management of manpower resources is one of the most important duties of our office heads. It is particularly important for them to spot people of unusual promise
• There are five characteristics which suggest to me that a person has the potential for rapid promotion:
- He is ambitious.
- He works harder than his peers – and enjoys it.
- He has a brilliant brain – inventive and unorthodox.
- He has an engaging personality.
- He demonstrates respect for the creative function.
• If you fail to recognize, promote, and reward young people of exceptional promise, they will leave you; the loss of an exceptional man can be as damaging as the loss of an account.
• I think that the creative function is the most important of all. The heads of our offices should not relegate their key creative people to positions below the salt. They should pay them, house them, and respect them as indispensable Stars.
• Our Management Supervisors are equivalent to the partners in great law firms. They must be stable, courageous, persuasive, professional, and imaginative. They must work in fruitful partnership with our creative people – neither bullying them nor knuckling under to them.
• Intellectual snobbery towards clients is common – and dangerous. When a Management Supervisor comes to regard his client as a boob, he should be transferred to another account. While our clients may not always be good judges of advertising, their jobs are broader than ours; they have to encompass areas about which we are ignorant – research and development, production, logistics, sales management, labor relations, etc.
• I respect the importance of our Treasurers. They must carry the guns to make their voices heard in our management councils. They must be tough and unafraid. They must be privy to all our secrets – and they must be discreet.
• No agency has greater respect for the importance of the research function – particularly in the creative area. The most valuable quality in a Research Director is his scientific integrity. A dishonest Research Director can do appalling damage to any agency.
• It is also important that a Research Director be able to work sympathetically with our creative people. And he should be able to use research fast and cheaply.
• The most difficult next quarter’s earnings decisions which confront our managements are decisions as to which accounts to take and which to reject. The primary considerations should be:
- Does anyone in Top Management really want the account? We should never take an account unless at least one key man can approach it with enthusiasm.
- Can good advertising sell the product? It does not pay to take on terminal cases.
- Would it be a happy marriage? Unhappy marriages do not fructify – and do not last.
- Will the account contribute significantly to our profits? Has it a significant potential for growth?
- If we take this account, will it risk losing us another account – anywhere?
- Will the account involve heavy risks? An account that bills more than 30 percent of the total billing in an office places the whole office at risk, and this is irresponsible. (In the early days of a new office, it makes sense to accept this risk.)
• Try to avoid new business contests when the prospective client is going to publish the names of the contenders. Only one agency can win; the others will be publicly branded as failures. We like to succeed in public, to fail in private.
• The best way to get new accounts is to create for our present clients the kind of advertising that will attract prospective clients.
• The prime responsibility for new business must lie with heads of offices. They should not allow Management Supervisors to spend too much time in this area; their prime responsibility must always be to our present clients.
• We do not handle political party accounts. Our reasons are:
- They preempt too much of the time of our top men, thereby causing trouble with our permanent clients.
- When an agency espouses one party, it is unfair to those of our people who are rooting for the other party.
- By identifying the agency with one party, we would incur the enmity of important people in the other party; we cannot afford this.
• If you resign accounts every time you feel like doing so, you will empty your portfolio every year. However, there are two circumstances in which resignation is the wisest choice:
- When the agency would be more profitable without the account; this is uncommon.
- When the client bullies the agency to such an extent that the morale of your staff is seriously impaired and starts hurting their performance on other accounts.
• In all countries where it is legal, we offer clients a choice of fee or commission. Fees offer five advantages over commissions:
- The agency can be more objective in its recommendations; or so many clients believe.
- The agency has adequate incentive to provide non-commissionable services if needed.
- The agency’s income is stabilized. Unforeseen cuts in advertising expenditure do not result in red figures or temporary personnel layoffs.
- The fee enables the agency to make a fair profit on services rendered. The advertiser, in turn, pays for what he gets – no more, no less.
- Every fee account pays its own way. Unprofitable accounts do not ride on the coattails of profitable accounts.
Then there is the commission system, and some clients prefer it.
Both systems will continue for years to come. We should be open-minded about our use of them.
• The common characteristic of success is the deliberate creation of a corporate culture.
• Corporate culture is a compound of many things – tradition, mythology, ritual, customs, habits, heroes, peculiarities, and values.
• Some of our people spend their entire working lives in our agency. We do our damnedest to make it a happy experience. I put this first, believing that superior service to our clients and profits for our stockholders depend on it.
We treat our people as human beings. We help them when they are in trouble – with their jobs, with illness, with alcoholism, and so on.
We help our people make the best of their talents. We invest an awful lot of time and money in training – perhaps more than any of our competitors.
• If you always hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If, on the other hand, you always hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.
• We don’t like hierarchical bureaucracy or rigid pecking orders.
• We abhor ruthlessness.
• We give our executives an extraordinary degree of freedom and independence.
• We like people with gentle manners. Our New York office goes so far as to give an annual award for “professionalism combined with civility.”
• 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.
• We admire people who work hard, who are objective and thorough.
• We do not admire superficial people.
• We despise office politicians, toadies, bullies, and pompous asses.
• We discourage paper warfare. The way up the ladder is open to everybody. We are free from prejudice of any kind – religious prejudice, racial prejudice, or sexual prejudice.
• We detest nepotism and every other form of favoritism.
• In promoting people to top jobs, we are influenced as much by their character as anything else.
• Like all companies with a strong culture, we have our heroes– the Old Guard who have woven our culture. By no means have all of them been members of top management.
• The recommendations we make to clients are the recommendations we would make if we owned their companies, without regard to our own short-term interest. This earns their respect, which is the greatest asset an agency can have.
• What most clients want from agencies is superior creative work. 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 do not grudge clients the right to decide what advertising to run. It is their money.
• Many of our clients employ us in several countries. It is important for them to know that they can expect the same standards of behavior in all our offices. That is one reason why we want our culture to be more or less the same everywhere.
• We try to sell our clients’ products without offending the mores of the countries where we do business. And without cheating the consumer.
• We attach importance to discretion. Clients don’t appreciate agencies which leak their secrets. Nor do they like it when an agency takes credit for their success. To get between a client and the footlights is bad manners.
• We use the word partner in referring to each other. This says a mouthful.
• Through maddening repetition, some of my obiter dicta have been woven into our culture. Here are ten of them:
- Ogilvy & Mather – one agency indivisible.
- We sell – or else.
- You cannot bore people into buying your product; you can only interest them in buying it.
- Raise your sights! Blaze new trails!! Compete with the immortals!!!
- I prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance. We pursue knowledge the way a pig pursues truffles.
- We hire gentlemen with brains.
- The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Don’t insult her intelligence.
- Unless your campaign contains a Big Idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.
- Only First Class business, and that in a First Class way.
- Never run an advertisement you would not want your own family to see.
• I have discovered that when Ogilvy & Mather appoints good leaders to manage our offices, everything blossoms. When we appoint a poor leader, everything withers.
• For the last 24 years, I have had unique opportunities for observing the men who manage great corporations. Most of them are fine problem-solvers and decision-makers, but relatively few of them seem to be outstanding leaders. Some of them, far from inspiring their lieutenants, display a genius for castrating them.
• It is the consensus among the social scientists that success in leadership depends on the circumstances. For example, a man who has been an outstanding leader in an industrial company is sometimes a flop when he goes to Washington as Secretary of Commerce.
• The kind of leadership which works well in a young struggling company seldom works well in a large, mature company.
• There appears to be no correlation between industrial leadership and high academic achievement.
It appears that the motivation which makes a man a good student is not the kind of motivation which makes a man a good leader.
• I suggest that corporations should try to tolerate and encourage their mavericks. The best leaders are apt to be found among those executives who have a strong component of unorthodoxy in their characters. Instead of resisting innovation, they symbolize it – and companies seldom grow without innovation.
• Great leaders almost seem to exude self-confidence. They are never petty. They are big men. They are never buck passers. They are resilient, they pick themselves up after defeat
• Great industrial leaders are always fanatically committed to their jobs. They are not lazy or amateurs.
They do not suffer from the crippling need to be universally loved; they have the guts to make unpopular decisions – including the guts to fire non-performers.
• I have observed that some men are good at leading the multitude – whether it be the labor force in their company or the voting population in their country. They are inspiring demagogues, and that can be valuable. But these same men are often miserable leaders of their cabinet or their inside group of executives.
• Good leaders are decisive. They grasp nettles.
• I do not believe that fear is a component of good leadership. It has been my observation that executives do their best work, and certainly their most creative work, in a happy atmosphere. Ferment and innovation thrive in an atmosphere of joie de vivre.
• The most effective leader is the one who satisfies the psychological needs of his followers.
For example, it is one thing to be a good leader of Americans, who are raised in a tradition of democracy and have a high need for independence. But the American brand of democratic leadership doesn’t work so well in Europe. European executives are more dependent than Americans; they have a psychological need for autocratic leadership.
• It is usually wise for American corporations to appoint natives to lead their foreign subsidiaries – natives are more successful in leading other natives.
• In a situation of crisis, it is difficult to lead in a democratic way. When pressures are less urgent, it is easier for the leader to involve his subordinates in the decision-making process.
• It does a company no good when its leader never shares his leadership functions with his lieutenants. The more centers of leadership you find in a company, the stronger it will become.
• Leadership is out of fashion nowadays. As William Shirer said the other day, “the mass of people are skeptical of a great man, especially one with a great mind. They would rather vote for someone who is mediocre, like themselves.”
• I believe that it is more important for a leader in today’s world to be trained in psychiatry than in cybernetics. The head of a big company recently said to me, “I am no longer a Chairman. I have had to become a psychiatric nurse.” Today’s executive is under pressures which were unknown to the last generation.
• Most of the great leaders I have known had the ability to inspire people with their speeches. If you cannot write inspiring speeches yourself, use ghostwriters – but use good ones.
• Megalomaniacs make megamergers. The people who make megamergers are the people who want to be the head of the biggest goddamn advertising agency. That’s their ambition.
• Everybody’s equally lucky. I don’t believe in luck.
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