Father of Advertising–David Ogilvy’s 7 Most Valuable Lessons on Advertising

Known as the “Father of Advertising”, David Ogilvy was a legendary copywriter that is well known for generating powerful sales headlines of many brands. Up to now, his works have been referred by many aspiring advertisers as some of the most prominent case studies in the advertising world.

The British advertising tycoon founded Ogilvy & Mathers in 1948, which nowadays Ogilvy has expanded its 132 offices in 83 countries as one of the world’s leading advertising companies . He published a few books that are prominent in the advertising industry including “Confessions of an Advertising Man” (1963) and “Ogilvy on Advertising”(1983), which his teachings in the books are considered timeless even by many contemporary advertisers themselves.
Below are the commandments extracted from the written pieces by Ogilvy in the 1980’s:

Commandment #1: Your role is to sell, don’t let anything distract you from the sole purpose of advertising.

The first rule of advertising is to make closing sales as your end goal. Many advertisers fail to close sales even though they generate leads as they fail to write copies that target the right groups and even entice those intended groups to make purchases. Many writers tend to be too creative in their words, but they tend to fall in the traps of forgetting their ultimate goals to make sales.  If you think you can surprise your audience with your words and creativity, you can do it, but never at the expense of closing sales.

Commandment #2: Clearly define your brand positioning such as your product or service and your audience.

It is essential to have a strong promotional campaign which is not bound by time and spaces. To achieve that, you should have thorough research on your product, along with your target audience. After collecting insights from the research, it is much easier to identify ways to find your intended audience and consumers.   There are many ways to reach your potential customers, which social networks can be one of the essential mediums.

Commandment #3: Do your homework. Study your consumer in detail.

“Advertisers who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore the signs of the enemy. “

According to David Ogilvy’s guidelines, if you don’t understand who you are writing for, you will be faking it, and that will lead to the problems that come subsequently. You will be only able to write effective sales copies if you fully understand: (1) who you write for; (2)how that person thinks; (3) what that person needs. Thus, many advertisers create customer personas, which entails demographic information, needs, motivations and goals, to come up with the best advertising strategies.

Commandment #4: Think of the consumer as a woman, she wants all the information you can give her.

“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. ”

Despite the sexism in the statements, Ogilvy made an important point to take consumers as high regard, especially when your consumers did research on products beforehand as part of decision making for the purchase.  An advertiser should speak on the behalf of consumers, rather than treating consumers as subpar while  making patronising tones. Treat your consumers with respect, especially when you need the sales from them.

Commandment #5: Talk to them in the language they use every day.

When coming to copywriting, write in a way that shows how you normally talk to your friends. Technical jargons may look good on your business reports or academic journals, but definitely not in your sales copies. In another way of saying that, you should put yourself in your customers’ shoes to know what they really like to see and how they likely wish to interact, if you sincerely wish to take money from your consumers.

Commandment #6: Write great headlines and you’ll have successfully invested 80% of your money.

“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.”

80% of people read the headline, but only 20% keep reading the copy bodies after the headline. To attract your readers, the headline should relate to human nature very well, especially what makes consumers feel good and what makes consumers tick in general. Bring your pain points always to entice your readers into knowing more about your products.

Commandment #7: Highlight the product by making it the hero

To make your brand stand out among the noisy, hyper-complex world, it is important to point out what differentiates your products from your other similar products. We all know that we should come up with unique selling points (USPs), but knowing how to make them prominent is another story. If you think it is difficult to bring the USPs of your product, then there is a quote from Ogilvy that may help, “there are no dull products, only dull writers”.

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