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Ogilvy on Advertising Book Summary: Top 10 lessons

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

You can also listen to the podcast of this same blog post, here


When I joined Ogilvy & Mather, I hadn’t read this book.

And now when I look back, I feel these learnings could’ve helped me tremendously during my advertising days.

Nonetheless, these learnings are bound to stay with me forever, thanks to TME!

I didn’t really have a set agenda when I started reading this book, I just wanted to understand different perspectives of advertising from the advertising guru himself.

In the words of David Ogilvy, “If you want to be interesting, be interested”.

And I wanted to learn just that! From this book.


Let’s start with the tone of the book, it’s very simple and to the point, and I suggest if you are really interested, keep a notepad along, and make notes on the way.

You can literally treat this as an advertising textbook because there is so much to learn.

One question that popped up in my mind, is this book for ‘advertisers’ or ‘marketers’ and the clear answer to that is, it is definitely for Advertisers.

So if you are genuinely interested in pursuing your career in advertising, this one is a must-read!

But if you are looking at a more generalized marketing approach book, then this may not serve your purpose.

Anyway, in this blog post, we will talk about my top 10 learnings from the book and understand them better with examples!

We often directly start looking at ways to advertise the product, what should be the message that needs to be highlighted?

But the most important part is understanding the brand positioning, what does the product do? What does it stand for in the minds of your consumers?

Let’s understand this through the help of an example, let’s consider Coca-Cola.

Number 1 in its category, it’s no wonder that the brand’s positioning has to be really strong.

Coca-Cola has always operated in the space of Friendship/Joy, and they have made this very clear through the ad campaigns over the years.

My favorite being the “Umeedon wali dhup” (Yes, you might already be humming the song)

I have experienced this in my advertising career, whenever the agencies are approached by clients for a pitch.

More often than not, you carry your best work along, the one that might have won you many awards.

But just think about it, if you carry one of your campaigns that didn’t do well, and also highlight the learnings you derived from the same, the amount of credibility you gain, will be tremendous!

No wonder, market research acts as one of the most important steps in building an ad campaign.

We need to know our customers, our product, extremely well before we can sell it.

However, can market research guarantee the success of a brand?

It cannot, but can research better your chances at success? Yes!

I remember when I was working at Lowe Lintas, it would take close to 6 months for a final release of the ad campaign and most of the time would go into concept research.

Your brand personality defines the degree to which consumers can connect to your brand.

These are human-like attributes that a brand portrays and accordingly creates a link with the consumers.

For example, let’s take a brand like Taj Hotels, the overall personality that they have built over the years clearly talks about the ‘trust’ you associate with the brand.

More on the lines of, ‘I’m sure to get the best of services when I’m at Taj”

Now the book mentions that whenever possible your ‘product’ should be made the hero of the ad.

And if you have been a regular follower of The Marketing Empress, you’d know the number of times I’ve stressed on making ‘consumer’ your hero.

Why the discrepancy?

The answer lies in the way the content is put through, in the book the question is not about whether it should be a consumer at the forefront of the product.

But rather, the question is around whether we should let creativity hide the core of the product?

And then the answer is clearly the product!

This is one of the most important learnings from the book that I gained.

It talks about how we should not stop advertising something until it stops selling.

Understand that you aren’t advertising to the same audience even if you advertise in the same magazine again.

So if something works well for your brand, don’t shy away from repeating it, instead learn and re-do the same stuff, it may work again!

Your communication is incomplete without a big idea, but what is your big idea?

The book mentions that knowing the answers to these 5 questions will make your big idea stand out!

- Did it surprise me?

- Did I wish, I should’ve thought of this?

- Is it unique?

- Is there a perfect fit with the strategy?

- Can I use it for 30years or more?

They say your product is not what you talk about, but it is what your consumers talk about, and rightly so.

If your ad campaign becomes a part of pop culture, there is nothing more that you can ask for.

But for that, you need to ensure the perfect amount of Buzz Marketing.

The book focuses on the basic ideology, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative”.

It’s as simple as that.

The book also mentions the common trend noticed, that brands normally winning at award functions may be different from the ads that have the best results for their clients

The book talks about how difficult it is to point out the exact positives or negatives of a campaign.

But one of the most important things to note is that consumer’s way of reacting to a specific set of communications is still the same and hasn’t changed.

They are still likely to react positively to something that they can relate to, and negatively to something that is against their set of beliefs.


The book also highlights numerous sets of rules that we must keep in mind to release the best print ads or ad campaigns!

Some of my favorite from the lot are mentioned below:

a) On average, five times as many people read the headlines as reading the body copy.

b) When you put your headline in quotes, you increase recall by an average of 28%.

c) If you include a testimonial in your copy, you make it more credible.

d) 'The more facts you tell, the more you sell'.

 

Also read: All Marketers are liars by Seth Godin


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