First off, Ogilvy on Advertising, is a must-read for people who are interested in the field of advertising. This advice was past down from my advertising professor, and now I am doing the same for you. David Ogilvy (founder of Ogilvy & Mathers internationally) is considered the “Father of Advertising” and rightly so because of his professionalism and creative brilliance he brought to the table and during his clients’ meetings.

Yes, this book is a little outdated since it was published in 1983; but it brings up important points nonetheless. These are general rules to keep in mind while launching any type of campaign. Even if the book was written before the advent of e-mail and social media. Ogilvy might roll over in his grave if he saw what Facebook has become in today’s world.

Here are the top 6 points that I learned from reading this book:

  • Research is important, important, important. Data backs up results. Research saves time, money, effort – in all, it saves. Without research, clients can dump millions of dollars on your little poor campaign (an ineffective campaign to start with) and expect sales. Quantitative data projects consumer results. No data equals no sales.
  • Reverse type is a no-no. You see this dark text on light background – keep that. People don’t want to adjust their eyes to read your atrocious white-on-black. This applies to print ads, billboards, and various places you don’t want to strain your eyes.
  • Long copy sells more than short copy.  I thought that this was one of the most important points he had reiterated throughout the book. Although I do understand the technique and psychology behind long copy, I’m not quite sure people nowadays have the attention span for it. True, it also depends on your target audience. If someone is investing their time and money in an industrial tool for their company, you better believe they will read all your copy for it. To a certain extent,  I interpreted his point as the more luxurious or valuable your product is (depending on your audience) , the more copy it needs (very simplified view of mine).
  • Make information in your advertisements relevant to the product your are selling. This might seem like a given to many advertisers. But I can see why some ads can be misrepresented. That is the worse news for advertisers – all that work and the consumer still does not understand the product. In a study performed by Professor Jacoby of Purdue University in 1979, participants where shown 25 typical TV commercials. He found that all of them where somehow miscomprehended, some by many as 40%. I can imagine in a world as complicated as ours today, how that percentage could be rising. Also, sex doesn’t always sell. (i.e, Paris Hilton eating a Carl’s Jr. burger…you really think she would eat a burger?)
  • Celebrities and humor produce high recall rates, but not sales. Yes, that funny SuperBowl M&M commercial made me laugh, and I enjoy the “Sexy and I Know It” snippet every time it plays on TV, but has that made me go to the store and buy a pack of M&M’s? Nope, I don’t even remember the last time I bought candy. I suppose celebrities and funny commercials are part of the formula for SuperBowl commercials, and it’s been an American tradition ever since who knows when. Additionally, using celebrity for a testimony is not a credible source – consumers will assume that you paid them to say so-and-so, and thus is probably perfectly true.
  • Communication is key. This is applied to all walks of life, but certainly in advertising – no wonder why it’s in the College of Communications. Granted, there are many business components and sales is definitely a key factor in determining a company’s success – but at the end of the day, did your consumer understand what you are trying to communicate to them? The message transition between advertiser to consumer is crucial and should not be taken lightly. Also, Ogilvy mentioned the importance of advertising during a recession because it creates awareness of the brand, even in hard times.

Some of his points where “no, duh” points to me. But I find it reassuring that he mentioned them because it would have been worse if he had assumed. Don’t just assume – research, crank out numbers, produce some results. In this industry, you don’t just assume – you dig up data and analyze.

Some of his points were out-dated. Direct mail pieces, which were a popular choice back then for direct response, is not used as often as it is now today. Most mail advertisements we receive at home meet the paper shredder in my house. Though, the company I work at, is an advocator for direct mail pieces, which I can see some effectiveness in the direct-tracking results for a direct mail campaign.

In all, this was an important read because it provided his experience in the industry (which in order, for me to save time, I don’t want to make the same mistakes). Advertising takes time, and it’s not as easy as the consumer perceives it to be, even if he/she might think they are smarter. Good advertising produces quick turnaround results, but great advertising is used for many years and ensures brand loyalty.

You do know it’s hard to avoid name-brand products, right? And where did that all start…