42 Of The Best David Ogilvy Quotes (Part 1)

42 Of The Best David Ogilvy Quotes (Part 1)

You can learn a lot about persuasive communication from the book Ogilvy on Advertising.

For those who don’t know, David Ogilvy was one of the key figures in advertising during its heyday, entertainingly captured by the award-winning TV show Mad Men

Thanks to Ogilvy’s talent, charm and leadership, the agency he started grew into a very successful organisation which has created many effective campaigns for brands, including Dove, Rolls-Royce, Shell, The Economist, British Airways, and many more. 

His name still stands on agency doors around the world, and the Ogilvy group is still one of the world's largest, with over 300 offices in more than 100 countries. 

To get a flavour of how his mind works, we’ve hand-picked 42 of his best sayings below. 

We hope they inspire and encourage you to jump down a David Ogilvy-shaped rabbit hole.

Trust us; it will be well worth it. 

1. “It is better to have the philosophy of thinking more than your competitors than spending more than them”.

2. “Few of the great creators have bland personalities. They are cantankerous egotists, the kind of men who are unwelcome in the modern corporation”.  

3. “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar”. 

4. “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals”. 

5. “First, study the product you are going to advertise. The more you know about it, the more likely you are to come up with a big idea for selling it.”

6. “Whenever you can, make the product itself the hero of your advertising. If you think the product too dull, I have news for you: there are no dull products, only dull writers.”

7. “Most campaigns are too complicated. They reflect a long list of objectives, and try to reconcile the divergent views of too many executives. By attempting to cover too many things, they achieve nothing.”

8. “Search the parks in all your cities You’ll find no statues of committees”

9. “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself”.

10. “Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith, and perseverance to create a brand”. 

11. “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible”. 

12. “Write the way you talk. Naturally”.

13. “Where people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work”.

14. “I always tell prospective clients about the chinks in the armour. I have noticed that when an antique dealer draws my attention to flaws in a piece of furniture, he wins my confidence”.  

15. “Much of the messy advertising you see on television today is the product of committees. Committees can criticise advertisements, but they should never be allowed to create them”.

16. “It pays to give most products an image of quality – a First Class ticket. This is particularly true of products whose brand-name is visible to your friends, like beer, cigarettes and automobiles: products you ‘wear’”.

17. “It is usually assumed that marketers use scientific methods to determine the price of their products. Nothing could be further from the truth. In almost every case, the process of decision is one of guesswork.”

18. “The headlines which work best are those which promise the reader a benefit”.

19. “It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea”.

20. “It will help you recognise a big idea if you ask yourself five questions: 

1 - Did it make me gasp when I first saw it? 2 - Do I wish I had thought of it myself? 3 - Is it unique? 4 - Does it fit the strategy to perfection? 5 - Could it be used for 30 years?”

21. “Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret. Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you.”

The spirit of David Ogilvy lives on in our range of courses from the Ogilvy brand, including Behavioural Economics, Applied Behavioural Science, Behavioural Science for Effective Messaging, and Social Media. 

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