Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ogilvy On Advertising - Book Review

As a part of my college assignment, I did a book review of the great book "Ogilvy On Advertising". I got a A+ in this assignment (probably for the first time in this college). So here it comes.
"At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock".


This was one of the genius advertisements developed by David Ogilvy for Rolls Royce in the initial days of O&M which was a huge success. In this book, David Ogilvy talks about advertising, what works, what doesn't. This book also talks about how to run ad advertising agency, getting clients and the importance of research. The book concludes with a discussion of discussing advertising in America vs. some other countries, and also some people who shaped the face of modern advertising.


All in all, as David Ogilvy himself mentions "This is not a book for readers who think they already know all there is to be known about advertising. It is for young hopefuls – and veterans who are still in search of ways to improve their batting average at the cash registers."


For the purpose of book review, I have divided the discussion in three parts. The first part discusses all about advertising agencies, how to run them and how to fetch clients. The second part talks all about various types of advertisements and what makes them click? The final part talks about Ogilvy's view on marketing.

Ogilvy on Advertising Agencies


Jobs in Advertising

In his book David talks about various jobs in advertising. He mentions that in the initial years "What you learn is more important than what you earn." Some of the opportunities available are as follows

1.      Copywriters

2.      Art Directors

3.      Account Executives

4.      Researchers

5.      Media

6.      Chief Executive Officer


Here David also mentions certain tips to keep in mind while applying for a job, which may be summarized as follows.

1.      Spelling the name of the client right.

2.      Identifying the type of job applying for.

3.      Being specific and factual.

4.      Be personal, direct & natural.

5.      Proposing a specific next step.


Running an advertising Agency

As per David, hiring plays a very critical role in determining the success of an advertising agency. The importance which David gives to hiring can be very well justified by the fact that whenever a person is appointed to head on office in the O&M chain, David sends a set of Russian dolls, in which a series of dolls are inserted in a doll slightly bigger ones. In the smallest doll, David has the following message "If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs, but if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, O&M will become a company of giants."


In addition David restrained from hiring friends, client's children, own children or people who have been successful in other fields.


In addition he also offered the following tips regarding the same

1.      Never allow two people to do a job, which one can do.

2.      Never summon people to office, instead go to see them in their offices unannounced.

3.      Communicate verbally, if you want to get into action.

4.      Avoid using products, which compete with your client products. (When David got his Rolls Royce account, he followed the same rule)

5.      Never allow yourself the luxury of writing letters of complaint. It would become very difficult to ever get their account.


Getting clients

As per David, the easiest way to get clients is to do good advertising. Some tips which David offers to advertising agencies pursuing clients are as follows

1.      Mix up with the client teams in the meeting and avoid sitting in groups.

2.      Listen, listen & listen

3.      Tell your client about your weak points, before they can find it out for you.

4.      Never pay a commission to an outsider who offers to introduce new business.

5.      Try advertising yourself, it works.


Ogilvy on Advertising


Producing advertising that sells.

In the book David mentions that wrong advertising can often reduce the sales of a product. Hence it is very important for us to understand what all can make an advertisement click.

1.      Do your homework – Study the product that you are going to advertise. E.g. When O&M got the Mercedes account; David sent a team to Daimler-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart. They spent three weeks taping interviews with engineers. From this came a campaign of long, factual advertisements which increased Mercedes sales in the United States from 10,000 cars a year to 40,000.

2.      Positioning – David defined positioning as "what the product does, and who it is for" . David chose to position Dove as a toilet bar for women with dry skin, and it's still working for more than 25 years.

3.      Brand Image – Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the brand image i.e. the personality of the product.

4.      The big idea – Big ideas for advertisement are hard to find, but any advertisement with a big idea is bound to work. To recognize   that whether you have the big idea we would need to answer the following questions

a.      Did it make you gasp when you first saw it?

b.      Do you wish you thought of it myself?

c.      Is it unique?

d.      Does it fit the strategy to perfection?

e.      Could it be used for thirty years?

5.      Make the product a hero – Whenever you can, you should try to make the product a hero.

6.      Repeat your winners – If you are lucky enough to write a good advertisement, repeat it until it stops selling. As per David we are not advertising to a standing army but to a moving parade.

7.      Pursuit of knowledge – As per David the only difference between good advertisers and the not so good advertisers is that the good one knows more. Research before advertising goes a long way to ensure that the advertisement succeeds.

8.      Cult of creativity – In advertisement terminology David says that 'If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative" . An advertisement which has an original idea but does not succeed is of no use. You should be trying to make the advertisements which would sell and not just try being original.


Print Advertising.

Agency people find making television commercials far more exciting than making advertisements for newspapers and magazines. David goes on to uncork some of the things which he has learnt about print advertising over the years

1.      Headlines – For lanolin as a cure for baldness " Have you ever seen a bald headed sheep "? For a pile remedy "Send us your dollar and we'll cure your piles, or keep your dollar and keep your piles ". Both these are from the David's favorites headlines of advertisements. Ad per David on an average five times as many people read the headlines as the body copy. So it does make sense to pay special attention while creating headlines. The headlines which work best are the ones which promise the user a benefit. Also the headline which contains news is sure-fire.  In addition specifics work better than generalities and when we put our headlines in quotes we increase recall by an average of 28 %.

2.      Illustrations – The author described various ways of making illustrations working for an advertisements, some of the important ones are as follows

a.      Subject of the illustration is important.

b.      The kind of photographs which works hardest is those which arouse the reader's curiosity.

c.      Make your package the subject of the illustration.

d.      Photographs attract more attention than drawings.

e.      The use of characters known to people is better.

f.        It pays to demonstrate the end result of the product.

g.      Keep the illustrations as simple as possible

h.      Do not assume that the subjects which will interest us, would interest the consumer.

i.        Historical subjects bore major of the readers.

j.         Advertisements in color are mot memorable than the one in black and white.

3.      Body Copy – Whether or not a person reads a body copy basically depends on the kind of product you are advertising, and how many people have been enticed into your ad by your illustration and headline. In addition the following points should be kept in mind while creating a body copy

a.      Average readership of Body Copy is around 5%

b.      Write your ad in the form of a story and a language which is easy to understand for a common man.

c.      Avoid using analogies as user at times is unable to complete those analogies.

d.      Testimonials generally have a higher recall rate.

e.      For great products long copies work.

f.        The more facts you tell, the more you sell

4.      Layouts – The major point which needs to be kept in mind while designing your advertisement is that the headlines below illustration are read 10% more than headlines above illustration.

5.      Typography – The main point to derive from this section is that white on black is relatively difficult to read compared to black on white.



Making TV commercials that sells.


In today's age TV commercials plays a very critical role in the success of any kind of advertising campaign. As per the author some of the advertisement which fare above average are

1.      Humor

2.      Slice of life

3.      Testimonials (those showing loyal users)

4.      Demonstrations which shows how well your product performs.

5.      Problem solutions

6.      Talking heads

7.      Characters

8.      Reason why

9.      News

10. Emotion

and those which fail are as follows

1.      Testimonials by celebrities.

2.      Cartoons

3.      Musical vignettes


Miracle of research in advertising.

As per the author advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals. In his book David suggests 18 miracles research can perform for you

1.      It can measure the reputation of your company among consumers.

2.      Research can estimate the sales of new product, and the advertising expenditures required to achieve maximum profits.

3.      Research can get consumer reactions to a new product when it is still in the conceptual stage.

4.      Once a product is ready for market, research can tell you how consumers rate it compared with the products they are now buying.

5.      Research can tell you what formulation, flavor, fragrance and color would appeal most to the consumers.

6.      Research can find out, which of the several package designs will sell best.

7.      Research can help you decide the optimum positioning for your product.

8.      Research can define your target audience.

9.      It can find out what factors are most important in the purchase decision.

10. Research can determine what line extension is likely to sell best.

11. Research can warn you when consumers show signs of finding an established product less desirable than it once was.

12. Research can save you time and money by reading your competitor's test market.

13. Research can determine the most persuasive promise.

14. Research can tell you, which of several premiums will work best.

15. Research can tell you whether your advertisement communicates what you want it to communicate.

16. Research can tell you which of the several advertisement commercials will sell the best.

17. Research can tell you how many people read your advertisement and how many remember them.

18. Research can settle arguments.

Ogilvy on Marketing


Various aspects of marketing which plays an important role in how a product may fare are as follows


1.      As per David 35% of the sales come from products which did not existed 10 years back. Hence developing new products is essential.

2.      Naming the product also plays an essential role in determining its future.

3.      Sleeping Beauties – Products like Hershey, which were working quite well without advertising. Advertising gave it a big boost.

4.      Don't waste time on problem babies, i.e. instead of trying to revive sick products worry about making successful products more successful.

5.      Don't spend too much on promotions as generally it gives only a short term kick to the product.

6.      Don't stop marketing in recession, it will kill the product. Studies of last six recessions have demonstrated that companies which do not cut back their advertising budgets achieve greater increases in profits than companies which do cut back.

7.      Target the heavy users.(As mentioned in the book 14% of the people who drink Gin consumer 80% of all the Gin)





Through the medium of this book, the author has offered various tips on advertising, how to run marketing companies, advertising for print, advertising for television. The book is supported by various advertisements alongwith their detailed descriptions.  


Since the book has been written a little while back, it gives maximum well on the print media and also does good justice to television and radio. There is no mention of the Internet as an advertising media, which in today's generation undoubtedly cannot be missed out.


To conclude the book is definitely a must for all who are interested in the fields of advertising, or want to pursue a career in advertising. In addition the book would also be interested to regular readers (though some chapters may not be required by them) who want to gain insights of advertising.


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