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  • Lou Killeffer

David Ogilvy on First Principles

Fortunately, my current schedule has brought me back into contact with one of the very sharpest, most entertaining minds I’ve ever encountered. That David Ogilvy was also the founding father of modern advertising is of course a material and spectacular bonus in my line of work.

If you've never read, or simply haven’t looked at it lately, I highly recommend you pick up Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man. First published in 1963, it helped revolutionize and define advertising as we've come to know it. Translated into fourteen languages, the quintessential madman's confessions became, and remain, an international bestseller. As such, they're as valuable today as they were then, if not more so. And their wise application reaches far beyond the ad world.

We'd all do well to simply consider the following from David Ogilvy in his own words:

  • “I admire people who work with gusto. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, I beg you to find another job.”

  • “It is important to admit your mistakes, and to do so before you are charged with them.”

  • “…I go on to preach the importance of discipline in art. 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 his sonatas within an equally rigid discipline. Were they dull?”

  • “Where people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work.”

  • “What you say in advertising is more important than how you say it.”

  • “Much of the messy advertising you see on television today is the product of committees. Committees can criticize advertisements, but they should never be allowed to create them.”

  • “I am less offended by obscenity than by tasteless typography, banal photographs, clumsy copy, and cheap jingles.”

  • “Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating.”

  • “Any damn fool can put on a price reduction, but it takes brains and perseverance to create a brand.”

  • “The creative process requires more than reason. Most original thinking isn't even verbal. It requires 'a groping experimentation with ideas, governed by intuitive hunches and inspired by the unconscious. The majority of business men are incapable of original thinking because they are unable to escape from the tyranny of reason. Their imaginations are blocked.”​

  • “You can’t save souls in an empty church.”

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