15 Pearls of Wisdom From the Legendary David Ogilvy

  • 1) “I don’t know the rules of grammar. If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.”
  • 2) “It has been found that the less an advertisement looks like an advertisement and the more it looks like an editorial, the more readers stop, look, and read.”
  • 3) “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”
  • 4) “Do not address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing to each of them a letter on behalf of your client.”
  • 5) “Consumers [decide] to buy or not to buy [based on] the content of your advertising, not its form.”
  • 6) “On the 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.”
  • 7) “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”
  • 8) Good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product.”
  • 9) “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.”
  • 10) “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.”
  • 11) “Why should a manufacturer bet his money, perhaps the future of his company, on your instinct?”
  • 12) “Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.”
  • 13) “Training should not be confined to trainees. It should be a continuous process, and should include the entire professional staff of the agency. The more our people learn, the more useful they can be to our clients.”
  • 14) “If you always hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If, on the other hand, you always hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.”
  • 15) “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.”

Which piece of Ogilvy’s advice resonated with you the most? Share your favorites with us in the comments.