The views of an advertising genius


One of the greatest advertising geniuses of the 20th century was David Ogilvy.

Although he was the head of a Madison Avenue advertising agency, he sided firmly with direct advertising over creative advertising.

Here is an excerpt from a speech he gave to advertising people in Paris where he laid out the difference between the two approaches and why, in his opinion, direct advertising is the more effective form:.

“There is a yawning chasm between you generalists and we directs. We directs belong to a different world. Your gods are not our gods.

“You generalists pride yourselves on being creative – whatever that awful word means. You cultivate the mystique of creativity. Some of you are pretentious poseurs. You are the glamour boys and girls of the advertising community. You regard advertising as an art form – and expect your clients to finance expressions of your genius. We directs do not regard advertising as an art form. Our clients don’t give a damn whether we win awards at Cannes. They pay us to sell their products. Nothing else.

“You must be the most seductive salesmen in the world if you can persuade hard headed clients to pay for your kind of advertising. When sales go up, you claim credit for it. When sales go down, you blame the product. We in direct response know exactly to the penny how many products we sell with each of our advertisements. Your favourite music is the applause of your fellow art directors and copywriters. Our favourite music is the ring of the cash register.

You generalists use short copy. We use long copy. Experience has taught us that short copy doesn’t sell. In our headlines, we promise the consumer a benefit. You generalists don’t think it is creative.

You have never had to live with the discipline of knowing the results of your advertising. We pack our advertisements and letters with information about the product. We have found out we have to – if we want to sell anything.”

If you want to learn more about David Ogilvy, I'd recommend his book "Ogilvy on Advertising".

Best wishes

Steve Gibson

PS If you'd like to receive regular tips and ideas about marketing, sign up to my free newsletter here.