David Ogilvy, along with the likes of Leo Burnett, Bill Bernbach and others, was one of the great ad men of the 20th century – if not the greatest. He wasn’t just a great ad exec (owning and running Ogilvy & Mather – originally Ogilvy, Benson & Mather) but was, also, a branding/marketing/research, as well as, a creative (in particular, copywriting), genius. But his real genius lay in being able to tie up all these skills together: offering an overall / holistic approach to advertising.
The following article covers some of his most important accomplishments from all aspects of his career in advertising.
Unpromising start ..
Ogilvy flunked university (Oxford).
He then went to Paris (1931) and worked as a junior chef whilst working out what to do with the rest of his life.
First taste of success (Aga) / selling
He then joined Aga (cooking stoves) in Scotland, selling door-to-door. His big, career-break came after writing a sales manual for other Aga sales people to use. It immediately became a classic. Not only had Ogilvy proved himself to be skilled at copywriting but he also proved himself to be skilled at understanding sales techniques. At the end of the day Ogilvy was to go on to be successful in advertising because one of the most important things he grasped, early on, is that advertising, in essence, is about selling.
First job in advertising / direct marketing
Ogilvy joined his first advertising agency, Mather and Crowther, in 1938. His first major success was with a direct marketing campaign which he thought up and organized, himself. Although Ogilvy is remembered, chiefly, for his involvement in big, mass consumer ad campaigns, he placed high value in direct marketing, in particular, because of direct marketing’s close association with direct sales: ‘We humble people who work in direct do not regard advertising as an art form. Our clients don’t give a damn whether we win awards at Cannes. They pay us to sell their products. Nothing else .. We sell–or else.’
Gallup / research
In the same year he left for America to join Gallup. There he learned the importance of basing an advertising campaign on research.
Ogilvy & Mather
Focusing on the customer
Ogilvy started up his own advertising agency, Ogilvy, Benson and Mather, in 1949. Besides focusing on advertising being about sales and research, he also focused on advertising being about the customer. Building up the business, at the beginning, however, did not prove easy. But once things took off, there was no looking back.
Campaigns / Rolls Royce
There were many well-known campaigns: one of the best-known being â€˜At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock’. Ogilvy thought up this headline after researching everything he could about Rolls-Royce. The story goes that he was getting a bit desperate for a headline when he came across the â€˜electric clock’ fact. A good example of how researching and knowing your product (or brand), inside-out, really pays off. It is, also, a good example, of Ogilvy’s meticulous attention to research.
Other well-known campaigns included: ‘The man from Schweppes is here’, ‘Schweppervesence’, ‘Only Dove is one-quarter moisturizing cream’ and more.
Ogilvy was responsible for coining the infamous phrase â€˜the big idea’. ‘The big idea’ involved creating something big about the brand that would appeal to a mass audience. Things have, perhaps, developed since then (due to the emergence of new media, as well as important changes in consumer behaviour and attitudes towards advertising, general). Nevertheless, ‘the big idea’ had a radical impact on the world of advertising in the 1960′s and 1970′s, and it is still important today, in varying degrees of importance.
David Ogilvy was an all-rounder. This was an invaluable asset to offer to his clients. But his different skills, also, played an all-imporant role, in the development of modern advertising: in the creative part of advertising, as well as in the branding / marketing / research side of the industry, that we see, reflected today in the important discipline of account planning. And, although things have moved on since the hey-day of Ogilvy in the 1960′s and 1970′s, many of the things he taught and practised himself, still hold good today, or serve as important platforms to new approaches in advertising.