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Confessions of an Advertising Man

Advice and techniques for building advertising empires from the era of Mad Men

By David Ogilvy
16-minute read
Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy

Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963) is a collection of advice and techniques for building successful advertising campaigns and agencies. Written in the era of Mad Men, the book is still considered essential reading in the advertising industry, but also provides advice for aspiring managers in any business.

  • Anyone interested in Ogilvy’s fundamentals of great advertising campaigns
  • Anyone hoping to make a career in advertising
  • Anyone who has ever seen the TV show Mad Men

Considered “the Father of Advertising”, David Ogilvy is hailed as a genius by his clients and a marvelous boss by his staff. The Scotsman dropped out of Oxford and worked as a chef in Paris, a door-to-door salesman in Scotland and a researcher at Dr. Gallup’s Audience Research Institute. He eventually founded and built up one of the world’s most famous advertising agencies, known today as Ogilvy & Mather, which has 450 offices around the world.

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Confessions of an Advertising Man

By David Ogilvy
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Contains 11 key ideas
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Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy
Synopsis

Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963) is a collection of advice and techniques for building successful advertising campaigns and agencies. Written in the era of Mad Men, the book is still considered essential reading in the advertising industry, but also provides advice for aspiring managers in any business.

Key idea 1 of 11

Choose your clients carefully and cultivate long-term relationships with them.

In its infancy, an advertising agency must hunt for whatever business it can get. But in the long run, it should aim to cultivate a select number of large key accounts.

This means being very picky and gradual when adding new clients. A basic limiting factor on growth should be your ability to train new staff to handle an account – a process that takes about two years. A first-class agency can afford to be selective because the demand for excellence is always higher than the supply.

So how do you choose your clients? First of all, you must be comfortable working with them, for your relationship will be an intimate one. Find out why they are leaving their former agency. Could it be that no agency can abide them, because they actually need therapy more than they need good advertising?

Second, both you and your client must seek a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. With an average profit margin of 0.5%, advertising agencies cannot afford clients who drive such a hard bargain that no profit is made on their account.

Some clients may have a reputation for changing their agencies frequently – avoid them, for you cannot remedy their infidelity. And never take on products that are either brand new or dying. The former are risky and very expensive to introduce to a market, whereas the latter cannot be helped by any advertising.

Some companies publicly announce which advertising agencies they are considering for their account. In such cases, you should withdraw voluntarily rather than risk failing publicly.

Finally, never add an account that is so big you cannot afford to lose it, or you will live in constant fear.

Choose your clients carefully and cultivate long-term relationships with them.

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