He was born on June 23, 1911 in West Horsley, England. He decided to migrate to the United States, more specifically New York. There he became a copywrite legend, creating hundreds of effective and powerful headlines that to this day retain their power. David Ogilvy is the most famous publicist and his lessons are still as relevant today as they were when he opened the doors of his agency Ogilvy & Mather in 1948. He understood the nature of the role of marketing and advertising to the point of being able to conclude that: advertising is not an art form, it’s a medium for information, a message for a single purpose: to sell.
When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.
Although “Ogilvy on Advertisement” was written in 1983, (yeah, I know, sounds almost prehistoric and so without internet!) Don’t think even for a second that all that he introduced to the world of advertising is no longer being used today. His lessons are timeless in marketing, including the new challenges of the era of Social Media.
The same “Ogilvian” techniques that worked in the 70s can be applied today in current ads, blog headlines, website marketing, e-commerce, and YouTube channels. For some reason they say that the ideas of geniuses transcend time. These 7 Commandments will demonstrate that the ideas of the most influential publicist in the market are eternal and with good reason! Let’s start to apply them by studying Commandment #1! (if David Ogilvy says it, believe me its worth it!)
1. Your role is to sell, don’t let anything distract you from the sole purpose of advertising.
The goal of creating ads is not to prove who’s more clever or witty. Nor to prove who can come up with the phrase with the best play on words. Ogilvy says in his book, he hated when his employees referred to themselves as “creative.” “Your role is to sell, don’t let anything distract you from the sole purpose of advertising.”
The main point of this commandment, and David Ogilvy puts it quite simply: if you want people to buy your product, you must explain it as briefly and simply as possible: what you sell, and how buying your product will improve their lives. People don’t have that much time to stop and read, so if you think you should surprise them with your words and creativity, you can do it, but never at the expense of making the sale.
Example: advertising agency TBWA- Vancouver, made a clear and creative ad for the “British Columbia Lung Association,” an association, fighting lung cancer. They really know how to transmit and “sell” the concept of the campaign efficiently and the play on words is priceless. Check out the headline:
2. Clearly define your positioning: What and for Who?
Positioning is a funny term, and the “The Father of Advertising” has a different definition.
Ogilvy asks: what does the product do and who is it for?
“I could have positioned Dove as a detergent bar for men with dirty hands, but chose instead to position it as a toilet bar for women with dry skin. This is still working 25 years later.”
Many years later, women still have dry skin, and Dove is there to solve the problem. The only difference between Dove women now and then is that today, there are lots of other products to deal with the same problem. However, Dove continues to stand out among its competitors because it offers an extra bonus, a promise that others do not: It will not only moisturize your skin, but when you buy it, you’ll be supporting the fight to promote a more realistic image of the modern woman, against the unattainable stereotype proposed by the media. You’ll be celebrating our “flaws” (wrinkles, cellulite, curves, gray hair, freckles, etc.). Dove fights for Real Beauty. Do you think that without this awareness campaign they would be so successful?
3. Do your homework. Study your consumer in detail.
“Advertisers who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore the signs of the enemy. “
If you don’t start doing your homework, you won’t have a chance in hell to produce advertising that’s successful and that sells. It’s the most tedious part as Ogilvy says, but it’s mandatory. You gotta do it. Ogilvy worked for years under George Gallup, founder of Gallup Poll, an agency that does market research and surveys. Commandment #4 of Ogilvy is based around the fact that if you don’t know who you’re writing for, then you’ll just be faking it, and that will lead to more problems than you can imagine.
You’ll never be able to write an effective copy if you ignore the following:
- Who you’re writing for
- How that person thinks
- What that person needs
The following is a basic model of consumption created by George Belch and Michael Belch. It clearly demonstrates the buying process of consumers. Knowing what your target audience wants, what they need, and how they think, will help you design an effective communication strategy to influence and achieve the ultimate goal: to sell. Take a look:
4. Think of the consumer as a woman, she wants all the information you can give her.
An important lesson to keep in mind when writing and communicating is: Don’t underestimate the consumer. Don’t think of your audience as “dumb”, value it as if she were your wife.
“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.”
What does that mean? If you want to make money in marketing, you’ll have to respect your audience. Every day, consumers are bombarded with advertisements, which in many cases, border on the edge of ridiculous: it seems that advertisers only want to show how creative, witty, or clever they are, completely ignoring the fact that an advertisement has got to provide relevant information and seduce the public.
5. Talk to them in the language they use every day.
Talk to your audience the same way you would talk to a close friend that’s sitting in the chair in front of you. At the same time, when you write for your audience, Ogilvy said, “Don’t address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing to each of them a letter on behalf of your client.”
“It seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.”
The next example is from Gillette, and it’s awesome for two reasons:
1) It shows that a good marketing team can reverse an unfavorable situation a brand might have, and do it quickly.
2) Gillette really knows how to speak their audience’s language!
It turns out that in recent years, November is a month of mustaches! Yeah, in case you weren’t aware, there is a movement called Movember, which encourages men around the world to let their mustaches grow during the month of November in order to raise funds and promote awareness about men’s health issues and raise money to fund more than 770 research programs. And wow has it caught on!
Gillette responded with a string of amazing ads that didn’t confront Movember, but rather joined them. In addition, they did so through an advertising campaign using the most colloquial language you can imagine, precisely to generate engagement and grab the attention of their target audience. Just read one of them to get the idea, starting with this one:
6. Write great headlines and you’ll have successfully invested 80% of your money.
“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.”
Less is more when it comes to titles. Did you know that 8 out of 10 people only read the headline? That leaves just 2 out of 10 who stay and read the rest of the article. With these numbers, do you really think people can afford to waste their time reading something complicated or tricky, that makes them think even more? People need just the right amount of information, that in only a few seconds seduces them to linger a little longer.
Basically, what we need the reader to tell us: “ok, you got my attention, now, tell me more.”
“Never use tricky or irrelevant headlines… People read too fast to figure out what you are trying to say.”
Writing headlines for ads is not as simple as it sounds, but if you want them to be read, understood, and that people stay to read the rest of the text, you must learn to master speech and know everything you can about the product.
When David Ogilvy took on Rolls-Royce as a customer, he spent three weeks reading and studying all the technical characteristics of the car until he came up with the phrase “60 miles per hour, the loudest noise comes from the electric clock”. That became the title, and the rest of the sales pamphlet was composed of 607 words of copy. I dunno about you, but I wouldn’t stay to read 607 words of text without a good title that leaves me wanting more.
TIP: You can try out which titles work best for your blog by sharing different versions of the headline on Twitter. The great thing about Twitter is that the headline is everything: if it’s good, it’ll get a lot of clicks. If not, it’ll be ignored. The headline with the most clicks is probably the best one. You can measure the amount of clicks by shortening your links with bit.ly or using UTM tags and Google Analytics. Or you can also use tools like Postcron to shorten links and schedule the publication of different headlines at different times and on different social networks.
7. Highlight the product by making it the hero.
What’s the difference between selling Soap A and selling Soap B, if both soaps have basically the same properties and are essentially the same product? Providing something the other doesn’t. Basically, making your product the hero and the star.
As we saw in the case of Dove, they participate in social networks, encouraging debates to define what real beauty is in response to low female self-esteem caused by society and the media. If there are lots of products out there similar, yours has got to provide the same or more than the others and bring something extra to the table. Individuals must identify with the values of the brand and everything the product represents.
If you think your product is boring, then Ogilvy has some news for you: “there are no dull products, only dull writers.”
“I never assign a product to a writer unless I know that he is personally interested in it. Every time I have written a bad campaign, it has been because the product did not interest me.”
Another huge brand that managed to position itself in the minds of consumers, for its style, innovative character, technology, quality and simplicity of its products, is Apple. Honestly, they’re best at it.
When you buy an Apple product, you immediately become part of a generation that believes that the rebels can change the world and have got to fight for what they think. This brand managed to become what they are today thanks to the strategies of Steve Jobs, who founded the company and molded it to achieve the highest level of quality, and didn’t stop ’til he got there.
In this article, we cover more about the ideology of another one of the legendary geniuses who taught us some of the most incredible lessons in Marketing.
“Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals. “
You know what he meant by that? You should never settle. Seek perfection, from your product to your advertising copy. As a publicist or marketer, there’s only one thing you should worry about: My product, does it sell, or not? That’s the question.
And if it doesn’t sell, use everything you’ve learned from David Ogilvy and ask yourself:
- Does it not work because I’m underestimating the consumer and prioritizing creativity in the ad over the truly relevant information? (If so, simplify it and inform)
- Is my message being understood or is it just a good pun? (Don’t sacrifice sales just to be creative; your goal is to communicate in order to sell).
- Am I talking to my audience in a language they understand and use day to day or am I being too technical or complicated? (Speak to them in a language they understand, if you don’t know what it is, study up on your audience to find out!)
- Do you know who you’re directing your message to, how they think and what they need? (Do your homework! Find out what your readers want and provide it. Construct the message they need to hear in order to get them to buy it).
- Is the headline of your ad clickable and seductive enough to get them to read the whole thing? (Try to grab the attention with your titles and leave your readers wanting more, without making it too complicated).
And finally, are you the hero in the minds of your audience? Do you know what separates you from the others?
The ideas of geniuses are not just trends of the moment, but actually transcend time. But, of all the lessons I’ve learned from this master strategist, the one that hit me the most was, “You should never settle, and you should always aim high.” In your personal and professional life, you should only aim for the best of the best, and then, aim a little higher.” And believe me, David Ogilvy, you got there!