David Ogilvy Quotes

David Mackenzie Ogilvy, 1911 – 1999

Born: 23 June 1911, West Horsley, Surrey, England
Died: 21 July 1999, Chateau de Touffou, Bonnes, France

Educated at Fettes College at Edinburgh, then on to Christ Church College Oxford where he says they threw him out after two years. He apprenticed for a year in the kitchen at the Hotel Majestic at Paris, then returned to England and sold cooking stoves (AGA Cookers) door to door. They asked him to write a manual for other salesmen, thirty years later Fortune described it as one of the finest sales manuals ever written. An older brother got him an internship in an advertising agency, and he soon got an assignment in the US. He worked for Gallup learning research, then served in the security section of the British Embassy during the war. After the war he bought a farm in the Amish country of eastern Pennsylvania, then started an advertising agency where he created much of the best remembered and longest running ad campaigns of the century. He retired in 1973 but kept an interest in the field, in the ’80s he returned to head Ogilvy, Benson, and Mather in India and managed the agency’s German office for a year. When WPP Group, the largest advertising firm, bought the firm, Ogilvy became non-executive chairman for three years.

David Ogilvy quotes:

A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.
    David Ogilvy

A lot of today’s campaigns are based on optimum positioning but are totally ineffective — because they are dull, or badly constructed, or ineptly written. If nobody reads your advertisement or looks at your commercial, it doesn’t do you much good to have the right positioning.
    David Ogilvy

Advertising is a business of words, but advertising agencies are infested with men and women who cannot write. They are as helpless as deaf mutes on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.
    David Ogilvy

Advertising is only evil when it advertises evil things.
    David Ogilvy

Advertising is the place where the selfish interests of the manufacturer coincide with the interests of society.
    David Ogilvy

Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.
    David Ogilvy

Advertising reflects the mores of society, but it does not influence them.
    David Ogilvy

Agencies which frequently work nights and weekends are more stimulating, more successful — and more profitable.
    David Ogilvy

Always hold your sales meetings in rooms too small for the audience, even if it means holding them in the WC. ‘Standing room only’ creates an atmosphere of success, as in theaters and restaurants, while a half-empty auditorium smells of failure.
    David Ogilvy

At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.
    David Ogilvy – 1958 advertisement

Can advertising foist an inferior product on the consumer? Bitter experience has taught me that it cannot. On those rare occasions when I have advertised products which consumer tests have found inferior to other products in the same field, the results have been disastrous.
    David Ogilvy

Candor compels me to admit that I have no conclusive research to support my view that jingles are less persuasive than the spoken word. You’d run like hell if a salesman came to your door and began singing at you. Why do it in advertising?
    David Ogilvy

Develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won’t think you’re going gaga.
    David Ogilvy

Doctor Gallup reports that if you say something which you don’t also illustrate, the viewer immediately forgets it. I conclude that if you don’t show it there is no point in saying it. Try running your commercial with the sound turned off; if it doesn’t tell without sound, it is useless.
    David Ogilvy

Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.
    David Ogilvy

Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.

David Ogilvy
Few of the great creators have bland personalities. They are cantankerous egotists, the kind of men who are unwelcome in the modern corporation.

David Ogilvy
First, make yourself a reputation for being a creative genius. Second, surround yourself with partners who are better than you are. Third, leave them to go get on with it.

David Ogilvy
Give people a taste of Old Crow, and tell them it’s Old Crow. Then give them another taste of Old Crow, but tell them it’s Jack Daniel’s. Ask them which they prefer. They’ll think the two drinks are quite different. They are tasting images.

David Ogilvy
Good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product.

David Ogilvy
Great hospitals do two things. They look after patients, and they teach young doctors. We look after clients, and we teach young advertising people.

David Ogilvy
H. L. Mencken once said that nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public. That is not true. I have come to believe that it pays to make all your layouts project a feeling of good taste, provided that you do it unobtrusively. An ugly layout suggests an ugly product. There are very few products which do not benefit from being given a first class ticket through life.

David Ogilvy
Headlines can be strengthend by the inclusion of emotional words like darling, love, fear, proud, friend and baby.

David Ogilvy
Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.

David Ogilvy
I admire people with gentle manners who treat other people as human beings. I abhor quarrelsome people.

David Ogilvy
I believe in the Scottish proverb: ‘Hard work never killed a man.’ Men die of boredom, psychological conflict and disease. They do not die of hard work.

David Ogilvy
I can’t stand callow amateurs who aren’t sufficiently interested in the craft of advertising to assume the posture of students.

David Ogilvy
I despise toadies who suck up to their bosses; they are generally the same people who bully their subordinates.

David Ogilvy
I did not feel ‘evil’ when I wrote advertisements for Puerto Rico. They helped attract industry and tourists to a country which had been living on the edge of starvation for 400 years.

David Ogilvy
I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.

David Ogilvy

Ogilvy on Advertising (1983)

I don’t know the rules of grammar… If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.

David Ogilvy

quoted by Denis Higgins in The Art of Writing Advertising: Conversations with Masters of the Craft (1965)
I figure that my staff will be less reluctant to work overtime if I work longer hours than they do.

David Ogilvy
I had a friend who was the King’s surgeon in England. One day I asked him what makes a great surgeon. He replied, “What distinguishes a great surgeon is his knowledge. He knows more than other surgeons. During an operation he finds something which he wasn’t expecting, recognizes it and knows what to do about it.” It’s the same thing with advertising people. The good ones know more. How do you get to know more? By reading books about advertising. By picking the brains of people who know more than you do. From the Magic Lanterns. And from experience.

David Ogilvy
I have a theory that the best ads come from personal experience. Some of the good ones I have done have really come out of the real experience of my life, and somehow this has come over as true and valid and persuasive.

David Ogilvy
I never tell one client that I cannot attend his sales convention because I have a previous engagement with another client; successful polygamy depends upon pretending to each spouse that she is the only pebble on your beach.

David Ogilvy
I never write fewer than sixteen headlines for a single advertisement.

David Ogilvy
I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post: for support, rather than for illumination.

David Ogilvy
I once found myself conspiring with a British Cabinet Minister as to how we might persuade Her Majesty’s Treasury to cough up more money for the British Travel advertising in America. Said he, “Why does any American in his senses spend his vacation in the cold damp of an English summer when he could equally well bask under Italian skies? I can only suppose that your advertising is the answer.” Damn right.

David Ogilvy
I once used the word ‘obsolete’ in a headline, only to discover that 43 percent of housewives had no idea what it meant. In another headline, I used the word ‘ineffable’, only to discover that I didn’t know what it meant myself.

David Ogilvy
If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.

David Ogilvy
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.

David Ogilvy
If you ever find a man who is better than you are — hire him. If necessary, pay him more than you pay yourself.

David Ogilvy
If you ever have the good fortune to create a great advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This is irritating, but don’t let it worry you; nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else’s advertising.

David Ogilvy
If you, my fellow copywriters or art directors, want to win the award, devote your genius to making the cash register ring.

David Ogilvy
In most agencies, account executives outnumber the copywriters two to one. If you were a dairy farmer, would you employ twice as many milkers as you had cows?

David Ogilvy

In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman.

David Ogilvy
It has been found that the less an advertisement looks like an advertisement, and the more it looks like an editorial, the more readers stop, look and read. Therefore, study the graphics used by editors and imitate them. Study the graphics used in advertisements, and avoid them.

David Ogilvy
It is the inescapable duty of management to fire incompetent people.

David Ogilvy
It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea.

David Ogilvy
It takes uncommon guts to stick to one style in the face of all the pressures to ‘come up with something new’ every six months. It is tragically easy to be stampeded into change. But golden rewards await the advertiser who has the brains to create a coherent image, and the stability to stick with it over a long period.

David Ogilvy
Lazy and superficial men and women do not produce superior work.

David Ogilvy
Leaders grasp nettles.

David Ogilvy
Like a midwife, I make my living bringing new babies into the world, except that mine are new advertising campaigns.

David Ogilvy

Confessions of an Advertising Man (1987)
Madison Avenue is full of masochists who unconsciously provoke rejection by their clients. I know brilliant men who have lost every account they have ever handled.

David Ogilvy
Make sure you have a Vice President in charge of Revolution, to engender ferment among your more conventional colleagues.

David Ogilvy
Making the logo twice the size is often a good thing to do, because most advertisements are deficient in brand identification. Showing the clients’ faces is also a better stratagem than it may sound, because the public is more interested in personalities than in corporations. Some clients can be projected as human symbols of their own products.

David Ogilvy
Many manufacturers secretly question whether advertising really sells their product, but are vaguely afraid that their competitors might steal a march on them if they stopped.

David Ogilvy
Many people – and I think I am one of them – are more productive when they’ve had a little to drink. I find if I drink two or three brandies, I’m far better able to write.

David Ogilvy
Most headlines are set too big to be legible in the magazines or newspaper. Never approve a layout until you have seen it pasted into the magazine or newspaper for which it was destined. If you pin up the layouts on a bulletin board and appraise them from fifteen feet, you will produce posters.

David Ogilvy
Most readers look at the photograph first. If you put it in the middle of the page, the reader will start by looking in the middle. Then her eye must go up to read the headline; this doesn’t work, because people have a habit of scanning downwards. However, suppose a few readers do read the headline after seeing the photograph below it. After that, you require them to jump down past the photograph which they have already seen. Not bloody likely.

David Ogilvy

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.

David Ogilvy
Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.

David Ogilvy
Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your own family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.

David Ogilvy
Ninety-nine percent of advertising doesn’t sell much of anything.

David Ogilvy
No sale, no commission. No commission, no eat. That made an impression on me.

David Ogilvy
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.

David Ogilvy
Once upon a time I was riding on the top of a First Avenue bus, when I heard a mythical housewife say to another, “Molly, my dear, I would have bought that new brand of toilet soap if only they hadn’t set the body copy in ten point Garamond.” Don’t you believe it. What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form.

David Ogilvy
Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.

David Ogilvy
People don’t buy a new detergent because the manufacturer told a joke on television last night.

David Ogilvy
Political advertising ought to be stopped. It’s the only really dishonest kind of advertising that’s left.

David Ogilvy
Readers travel so fast they don’t stop to decipher the meaning of obscure headlines.

David Ogilvy
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.

David Ogilvy
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 — exposition, development, and recapitulation. Were they dull?

David Ogilvy
Supposing you’ve got an acute appendicitis. You’ve got to be operated on tonight. Would you like to have a surgeon who’s read some books of anatomy and knows how to do that operation — or would you prefer to have a surgeon who refused to read all books about anatomy and relied on his own instinct?

David Ogilvy
The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.

David Ogilvy

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.

David Ogilvy
The headline is the most important element in most advertisements. It is the telegram which decides the reader whether to read the copy.

David Ogilvy
The line between pride in our work and neurotic obstinacy is a narrow one. We make our recommendations clear. But we do not grudge our clients the right to the final say. It is their money.

David Ogilvy
The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.

David Ogilvy
The most effective leader is the one who satisfies the psychological needs of his followers.

David Ogilvy
The most important word in the vocabulary of advertising is test. If you pretest your product with consumers, and pretest your advertising, you will do well in the marketplace.

David Ogilvy
The pursuit of excellence is less profitable than the pursuit of bigness, but it can be more satisfying.

David Ogilvy
The secret of long life is double careers. One to about age sixty, then another for the next thirty years.

David Ogilvy
There are now unmistakable signs of a trend in favor of superior products at premium prices. The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.

David Ogilvy
There are very few men of genius in advertising agencies. But we need all we can find. Almost without exception they are disagreeable. Don’t destroy them. They lay golden eggs.

David Ogilvy
Training should not be confined to trainees. It should be a continuous process, and should include the entire professional staff of the agency. The more our people learn, the more useful they can be to our clients.

David Ogilvy
Unless your campaign has a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.

David Ogilvy

Confessions of an Advertising Man (1987)
Viewers have a way of remembering the celebrity while forgetting the product. I did not know this when I paid Eleanor Roosevelt $35,000 to make a commercial for margarine. She reported that her mail was equally divided. “One half was sad because I had damaged my reputation. The other half was happy because I had damaged my reputation.” Not one of my proudest memories.

David Ogilvy
We exist to build the business of our clients. The recommendations we make to them should be 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 we can have.

David Ogilvy
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.

David Ogilvy

We prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance. We pursue knowledge the way a pig pursues truffles.

David Ogilvy
What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form.

David Ogilvy
When someone is made the head of an office in the Ogilvy & Mather chain, I send him a Matrioshka doll from Gorky. If he has the curiosity to open it, and keep opening it until he comes to the inside of the smallest doll, he finds this 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, we shall become a company of giants.

David Ogilvy
When you have nothing to say, sing it.

David Ogilvy

Ogilvy on Advertising (1983)
While you are responsible to your clients for sales results, you are responsible to consumers for the kind of advertising you bring into their homes.

David Ogilvy
You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade. Three million consumers get married every year. The advertisement which sold a refrigerator to those who got married last year will probably be just as successful with those who’ll get married next year. An advertisement is just like a radar sweep, constantly hunting new prospects as they come into the market. Get a good radar and keep it sweeping.

David Ogilvy
You can’t save souls in an empty church.

David Ogilvy
You have only 30 seconds in a TV commercial. If you grab attention in the first frame with a visual surprise, you stand a better chance of holding the viewer. People screen out a lot of commercials because they open with something dull…. When you advertise fire-extinguishers, open with the fire.

David Ogilvy
You make the best products you can, and you grow as fast as you deserve to.

David Ogilvy
You make the best products you can, and you grow as fast as you deserve to.

David Ogilvy
You now have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place.

David Ogilvy
You will never win fame and fortune unless you invent big ideas.

David Ogilvy

Ogilvy on Advertising (1983)

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