Confessions of an Advertising Man (David Ogilvy) — Summaries: EP18

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  1. An advertising agency first has to hunt for whichever customers it can get. But it’s long term game should involve picking out a few large key accounts. Be very picky and gradual when adding new accounts. A first-class agency can be very selective and picky when adding new accounts, because the demand for excellence will always exceed supply. Only add accounts, as you are able to train your employees to service them.
  2. Make sure to understand why the client is leaving their current agency. You need customers that you can really work well with. If they simply have unrealistic expectations, and need therapy, then they are not the right choice of customer for you. Avoid customers which change agencies all the time.
  3. Do not take on new or dying products. New products are too expensive to bring to market. Dying products can not be saved by advertising.
  4. If a company is advertising openly: which agencies they are considering, you should withdraw voluntarily, so that you do not fail publicly. Never add an account that’s too big for you to lose, to avoid a possible state of fear. Make long term relationships with your accounts.
  5. Make sure you put your best people on servicing your best accounts, rather than have them chasing new accounts. Make yourself indispensable to them. It really hurts losing big accounts, and can cause a panic and kill an ad agency, as the other accounts also leave.
  6. Establish intimate relationships with your clients, use their products, buy their shares, and listen to them more than you talk. You will appear more thoughtful to them that way.
  7. Clients statistically change their ad agencies every 7 years, but they also change their internal marketing managers more frequently than that. When a new marketing manager comes on board, they frequently revamp everything, including changing the partner agency. So you need to impress and get comfortable with new marketing managers as they come on board. You want to become a lasting and valuable partner.
  8. Dishonesty is short sighted, and not profitable. If you are duping people into buying an inferior product, your reputation will get damaged, and consumers will not come again.
  9. Giving out as much information about the product is the best way to sell it. Consumers are not morons, and will not buy just because of broad headlines and slogans. Use your own family as a sample target for your advertisements. If you wouldn't want your family reading the ad, don’t give it to the consumer.
  10. Use similar integrity when communicating with the customer. For example, if you feel your agency is weak in a particular area, tell them this. If you don’t feel that you can do a better job than the previous agency did, do not accept the account.
  11. Avoid copy-catting other agencies successful campaigns. It doesn’t look good on your reputation. But know that this is a very popular practice in the market.
  12. Only hire people who have respect, integrity, are hardworking, well-mannered, highly skilled and courage to stand up to their bosses. One tactic to do this is: when you see an advertisement you really like, find out who did that, call them up, and congratulate them for it. If your reputation as an agency is strong, that person may ask you for a job right there on the phone.
  13. Ensure there is no incompetence among your ranks. Nothing discourages skilled people like working with un-skilled co-workers.
  14. Never hire people just because they are family and friends (nepotism). This breeds political maneuvering, and undermines your commitment to only high-caliber hiring.
  15. Watch out for account executives who are quarrelsome. Anyone who likes to pick fights is a liability, and will eventually court rejection from your clients.
  16. To make sure your advertising is contemporary, hire young copywriters. They will keep ads fresh.
  17. Demand excellence from your staff’s advertising campaigns. Personally inspect them before they go out, and send them back if they need more work.
  18. Use compliments sparingly, instead of gushing constant approval. When you make the compliment potent, and even public, then you have a chance of making the person be a devoted servant of the agency. As an example, when Ogilvy was working as a chef for Monsieur Pitard (the head chef), Pitard once called the other cooks, as Ogilvy was preparing frogs legs, and told them: “That’s how you do it”. This made Ogilvy, a “devoted slave” to Pitard.
  19. Once a week Monsieur Pitard actually cooked something himself, so the other cooks could watch him in awe. Therefore, in an ad agency, the owner should do the same thing and create advertisements himself. When the owner works longer hours than the employees, then they have fewer qualms about working overtime. This is how you lead by example. (Stay occasionally hands on; work over time)
  20. The most important metric for advertisements is how many sales they bring in. It’s not how many people they entertain. Forget about making “creative” campaigns or “award-winning” copy. Great campaigns sell products, and don’t draw too much attention to themselves.
  21. Monitor mail-order companies and large department stores, for how well their advertisements actually increase sales following their release. For mail-order companies, from the coupons sent in, for department stores: increase in sales generated after the advertisement.
  22. Don’t use complex puns or allusions. The most important thing is: “did they buy the product?”, rather than “did they admire this penmanship?”.
  23. Promise a benefit with each advertising. For example, for a Helena Rubinstein Hormone Cream: “How women over 35 can look younger”.
  24. Insert certain words into advertisements, which are proven to work. For example “new” and “free” are good at grabbing attention. Emotional words: “love”, “baby” and “darling” evoke powerful responses. One of the most provocative advertisements of Ogilvy’s is: a girl sitting in a bathtub, speaking on the phone: “Darling, I’m having the most extraordinary experience… I’m head over heels in DOVE”.
  25. Grab attention by using facts, intrigue and research results. You need to compete with all the other advertisements people are bombarded with. Be charming, riveting, unique, memorable, and to-the-point.
  26. Giving facts is a powerful tool, even if the facts are not about your product. When Ogilvy advertised KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, he emphasized their safety precautions, even though every airline was practicing the same precautions. But since he was the only one talking about them, the approach was effective.
  27. Use photos which are intriguing. For example: an empty chair with a cello leaning up against it, begs the question: “Where is the cellist?”, and people are led on to read more.
  28. Photographs are more effective than drawings.
  29. Colour photographs are more effective than black and white ones.
  30. People read headlines more frequently than body text. So make sure your company name is included in the headline.
  31. Use captions with your photos.
  32. Use research and long copy. Ogilvy once made an over 900 word advertisement for a travel promotion to Puerto Rico, which 14,000 people clipped a coupon from. You can give helpful advice, include testimonials, and other long-form pieces of content.
  33. Create and test ambitious campaigns. Don’t shoot for mediocrity, but instead try to make it the best campaign of all time, so it succeeds over the long term. An example of a long term ad campaign is: Sherwin Cody School of English, who ran their campaign for 42 years.
  34. Build up your brand name over time consistently. Be unique, distinctive, and stylistic to try and become iconic. Examples are Guinness and Campbell Soup.
  35. Test images, headlines, and campaigns before running them. Allows you to be more effective, and avoid embarrassment of failing campaigns.
  36. There are several benefits using dozens of wordings that you can promise to the customer. Test each variation until you find the most effective one. With Helena’s cream example, the phrase “Cleans Deep into Pores” generated way more sales than “Smoothes Out Wrinkles”.
  37. Test different layouts of photo and text in the same way, to see which generates more sales.
  38. Now pretend that you are the client. Don’t haggle with your agency or underspend on your ads. If the agency is not making a profit, they will not put the best brains on your campaign. Don’t have too much approval phases for the advertisement. Too many masters will make it too hard to actually release.
  39. Fearful people can’t produce great advertising. Instead of frequently switching agencies, spend more time up-front to understand your right agency, and really understand what they have to offer by studying their existing clients. Set high standards, by making it clear that you expect home runs only. Be candid with them if they are not meeting your expectations, so they get a chance to rectify the situation by putting stronger talent on your account.
  40. For young advertising professionals, the advice is: work hard, become a specialist and seize big opportunities. Become extremely knowledgeable on your specific assignment by reading textbooks, trade journals, and marketing plans related to your client’s industry. Get to know your customers until you know more about the client than your superior, meaning that you will be ready for their job.
  41. It’s easier to impress as a specialist, rather than just a generic account manager. So choose to start as a copywriter, researcher, or specific media type expert.
  42. Most of the work in an ad agency is routine labor, but once in a while an opportunity comes up. Make sure to identify it and seize it. As an example, once a client has requested policy papers on television advertising. Most agencies responded with a few-page responses. But one of Ogilvy’s co-workers worked tirelessly on a 175 page analysis, which eventually propelled him to the board of directors of the organization.
  43. Working harder and longer will get you promoted faster. You may be more likeable than a workaholic in the short term by spending more time with your family, however workaholics will advance more quickly.
  44. Summary: focus on honesty, ambition, great people, patience, selling products, meticulous design and rigorous testing. Choose your clients carefully. Cultivate long term relationships. Be a lasting, valuable partner to your clients. Be honest in your ads and dealings. Hire hard workers with brains and integrity. Demand excellence and lead by example.
  45. Great campaigns: sell products, not entertain people. They use facts, get people’s attention, create intrigue, and take advantage of research. Are ambitious and rigorously tested. As a young professional: work hard, be a specialist, use big opportunities.

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