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Confessions of An Advertising Man - David Ogilvy

    • 1117 posts
    August 24, 2011 12:21 AM PDT

    The lesser known of David Ogilvy's two books* on the advertising business, Confessions of An Advertising Man provided my first exposure to the extraordinary founder of Ogilvy & Mather.  It remains my favorite, even though it is not as popular as his later work, Ogilvy on Advertising.  I like "Confessions" because of its backstory (e.g., the management and quality-control lessons Ogilvy learned working as a chef in the Hotel Majestic in Paris, reputed to be the best kitchen in the world at that time) and the author's wonderful style of storytelling.

    Long out of print, I obtained my copies from used book stores or eBay sellers. When I donated a copy to our local library to help fill out their marketing and advertising section, they had no idea what a prize it was.

    Today "Confessions" is back in circulation, reprinted by Southbank Publishing.  For the gold it contains, it's a steal at just under eleven bucks on Amazon.  I recommend it without reservation.

    When I started my first radio sales job in Springfield, IL in 1973, I received no training in anything - just coffee with the manager every morning and a pep-talk about how great our new "hundred spots for three hundred bucks, spread over three months" package was.  Later, in Winona, MN, I began to receive a REAL education in selling when Jim Williams was hired as our "consultant" (read: sales trainer).  But for all Jim's training and all the supplementary stuff provided by RAB at that time, I'd never received any real training in the art of advertising. 

    Perhaps no one considered it necessary for a salesman to know that stuff about advertising. After all, we had copywriters and production people to handle that part of it. 

    Eventually, I had to come to grips with the fact that while I'd learned to excel at GETTING the money, I didn't know very much about what to DO with the money, i.e., how to make the ads work for the client.  That's where David Ogilvy filled a significant gap in my knowledge, providing both a theoretical and practical basis for creating "good advertising" - advertising that causes sales to be made.

    Ogilvy was a master at running an advertising agency.  You'll learn a lot about dealing with clients by seeing them through his eyes.

    He also was a specialist in print advertising - magazines, primarily, as well as newspapers, billboards, and later television advertising - learning much from the creative people he hired and nurtured along the way. But don't let his print-orientation throw you; the principles of good advertising aren't dependent so much upon media as they are upon ideas and techniques that cut across the board.  

    In short, if you want to learn:

    • how to get clients
    • how to keep clients
    • how to build great campaigns
    • how to write potent copy
    • how to make good commercials
    • how to become good at ADVERTISING

    ...invest eleven bucks in your career and dive fearlessly into Ogilvy. It's a wonderful read, and one you'll keep close by.

    * * * * * * *

        I once asked Sir Hugh Rigby, Sergeant Surgeon to King George V, 'What makes a great surgeon?'

        Sir Hugh replied, 'There isn't much to choose between surgeons in manual dexterity.  What distinguishes the great surgeon is that he knows more than other surgeons.'  It is the same with advertising agents [or radio advertising sales professionals].  The good ones know their craft.

        -David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man (p. 97)


    *Ogilvy wrote a third book—his autobiography: Blood, Brains, and Beer, which was published 15 years after "Confessions" and 5 years before "On Advertising."


    This post was edited by Rod Schwartz at October 5, 2020 11:31 AM PDT