The Most Profitable Confessions – A Review of “Confessions of an Advertising Man” By David Ogilvy

This short book is pure gold! You’ll wish it was longer because every piece of advice given in this book could deliver vast profits for your marketing…

David Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Advertising Man” is also a very fascinating read.

He first talks about his tumultuous work before he went into advertising. I think he learned vigorous self-discipline and a real strive for excellence working as a cook, which he used as head of Ogilvy & Mather years later.

He talks about his work in advertising, which he began at 39, and rises to the top of his game to make millions within a decade. He gives valuable guidelines on how to manage an ad agency, get clients, get a job at agency and rise to the top the fastest way possible, keep clients, build campaigns, be a good client, write copy that gets sales, and more.

Throughout his guidelines and anecdotes he emphasizes the importance of researching your product and its benefits to your target customers in great detail. He also gives valuable tips on what to research on. He stresses the important of candor and being upfront with clients about their ads’ effectiveness. He takes this approach to copy as well, advising that buying something is serious business for customers and serious candor about product benefits is expected.

In Ogilvy’s experience the best advertisements that pull in amazing sales are made by the individualists, the mavericks, and the rebels, so he says those are the kind of people you want working in your ad agency.

He laments committees in his agency or when dealing with clients because they stifle innovation in ads and copy.

He stresses humility, so you can hire people who are better than you, and getting in there and giving the best yourself, reflecting his own favorite proverb about work which was “hard work never killed a man”

He gives guidelines for advertising on various mediums such as posters, billboards, and television, even though he seemed to prefer print to all of these. He decries jingles in TV and cheesy scenarios and recommends making “visual scandals” on billboards. The most counter-intuitive secret given was to advertise on “boring” shows and not on popular “sought-after” spots.

He gives details on how to advertise food, travel, and medicine. His overall message is that each should be on the “dream” or desired product in the perfect scenario, and goes into detail on delivering this message.

His advice rising to the top of an agency quickly was profound and somewhat counter-intuitive, but nonetheless invaluable! He advices avoiding account executive positions early on and focus on specialized work (research, ad copy, etc). The “give up some fame now and it’ll come to you later” sort of strategy.

Finally he wonders if advertising should be abolished, and with insight and careful precision in thought, his conclusion is profound and righteous.

I’ve wrote about another of Ogilvy’s work before, and he continues to deliver in Confessions of An Advertising Man, though my only gripe is that this book is too short! I feel that he has more knowledge and experience that, if he shared, would be worth another fortune in itself.

Nonetheless no advertising man should make another ad without reading this book! Even a few pages could change things for you and your agency dramatically.

Did I mention that that Ogilvy was dubbed the King of Madison Avenue?

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