David Ogilvy, who only began his career in advertising at the age of 39, went on to become one of the most successful ad men the world has ever seen.
By the end of the Sixties he’d led Ogilvy & Mather to billings of $130 million, rankings among the top 10 agencies in the USA and the esteem of millions of ad agency execs around the world.
A reverence that continues to this day.
In 2011, to commemorate what would have been Ogilvy’s 100th birthday, the Cannes Advertising Festival rolled out the longest red carpet ever seen.
Aside from being one of the greatest copywriters who ever lived, Ogilvy was famous for his belief that ads should focus on selling products rather than entertaining people.
But in truth, he did both.
The man was a born storyteller.
But before he began telling a product story he sometimes spent as much as six weeks combing through research to find a product’s USP – unique selling
He liked to say great advertising is marked by “a burr of singularity” — a “big idea” that sticks in a person’s mind.
Such methods came to the fore in some of his most famous ads.
Dove soap’s long-lived promise — “One-quarter cleansing cream. It creams your skin while you wash” — stemmed from information Ogilvy gleaned while visiting a pharmacy.
The famous Rolls-Royce headline — “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock” — was a detail buried in a research report, discovered by Ogilvy as he read everything about the car business he could find.
Sales of Rolls-Royces climbed 50 percent in 1959, a year after the campaign launched.
At times, this rational approach took an inspired turn. En route to his first Hathaway ad shoot, working with a tight budget for a print campaign, Ogilvy bought a black eye patch for $1.50 from a shop.
The legendary “man in the Hathaway shirt” brand personality was born and became closely identified with a series of eye-patch-wearing characters who collected butterflies or conducted orchestras at Carnegie Hall.
The ads made Hathaway shirts and Ogilvy instantly famous.
It was the first time that shirt advertising had focused on more than just the shirt itself.
Sales of Hathaway shirts more than doubled.
Ogilvy struck another first, as part of a campaign he created for Shell.
For the first time in history, an ad explained what went into petrol and how the ingredients in Shell petrol benefited users by giving them more mileage.
And he went on to demonstrate that message in a dramatic way in a 60 second TV ad.
Many other oil companies used similar additives in their petrol and an almost identical manufacturing process.
But they’d never bothered to tell the market about it.
Because Shell was the first to explain the process and how those additives could benefit car owners, they became the leading petrol brand in the market…
Of all the great Ad men, Ogilvy was the finest storyteller of all. Pretty ironic considering his focus was to “Sell” rather than “Entertain”.
He was a master at doing both.