In 1948 David Ogilvy founded the agency that would later become Ogilvy & Mather. Ogilvy, who is often called the father of advertising, emphasized that the goal of advertising is to sell products and that successful advertising is based on information about the end consumer. Two of Ogilvy’s most famous campaigns are “The man in the Hathaway shirt” which was modeled after Baron George Wrangell in an aristocratic eye patch and “Only Dove is one-quarter moisturizing cream” which helped Dove become the top selling soap in the U.S.
In the 70’s Ogilvy & Mather created a series of so-called house ads to better explain what they did and how they were different from other agencies. One of the most powerful ads is entitled “How to create advertising that sells”. At nearly 2000 words, it breaks one of its own rules on brevity but is worth reading over and over again.
Here are four of my favorites pieces of advice:
The most important decision
We have learned that the effect of your advertising on your sales depends more on this decision than on any other: How should you position your product? Should you position Schweppes as a soft drink – or as a mixer? Should you position Dove as a product for dry skin or as a product which gets hands really clean? The results of your campaign depend less on how we write your advertising than how your product is positioned. It follows that positioning should be decided before the advertising is created. Research can help. Look before you leap.
The second most important decision is this: what should you promise the customer? A promise is not a claim, or a theme, or a slogan. It is a benefit for the consumer. It pays to promise a benefit which is unique and competitive, and the product must deliver the benefit you promise. Most advertising promises nothing. It is doomed to fail in the marketplace.
What Works Best In Television
Avoid logorrhea. Make your pictures tell the story. What you show is more important than what you say. Many commercials drown the viewer in a torrent of words. We call that logorrhea, (rhymes with diarrhea.) We have created some great commercials without words.
What Works Best In Print
Headline. On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. It follows that, if you don’t sell the product in your headline, you have wasted eighty percent of your money. That is why most Ogilvy and Mather headlines include the brand name and the promise.
Would David approve of your advertising?
(Disclaimer: Ogilvy and Mather is the agency of record for my employer.)