confessions of an advertising man by d ogilvy


“[Insert problem here].  Use my approach.  Easy, quick, and effective.  See, I told you so.”  This pretty much sums up the tone and manner of David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man.  The only humbling part about the book is that Ogilvy, expecting only a few thousand copies to sell, gave all the publishing rights to his son – something (if not, the only thing) that he regretted most in his life.

There are fundamental tips he shares under ten “how-to” chapters including how to: manage an ad agency, get clients, keep clients, build great campaigns, write potent copy, illustrate ads and posters, make good TV commercials, make good campaigns for foods, tourist destinations, medicines, and lastly, how to rise to the top of the tree.

Some of these claims are quite general and applicable across various industries.  I wish there were more exclusive pointers pertaining to the advertising industry.  Maybe I’m too biased.  I am a true Leo (Burnett) fan.  No worries, they’re all valid and useful guidelines but not entirely painted in the ad world. Such as this one: If you get into the habit of seeing clients when the weather is calm, you will establish an easy relationship which may save your life when a storm blows out.” Agreed. Everyone in the service industry should take this into consideration.  “It’s important to admit your mistakes and to do so before you’re charged with them.”  One more (from How to Build Great Campaigns) – “If you’re lucky enough to write a good ad, repeat it until it stop pulling.  The advertisement which sold a refrigerator to those who got married last year will probably be just as successful with those who get married next year.”

Aside from the lists of what to and what not to do, Ogilvy’s narration is quite bland.  Maybe he intended it to be more like his company manual.  Don’t expect any storytelling.  It’s just a “get in, get out, go live it” kind of pick up.

dee’s recommendation: 2.5/5