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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 10 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 10

Build your business by being a lasting, valuable partner to your clients.

Building an advertising business from scratch is very difficult, but it can be done with a bit of luck — and a lot of effort and self-promotion.

Landing new accounts is a thrilling experience, and your business depends on it. Nevertheless, consider client hunting as a sport: try to win but don’t take it too seriously. Set your long-term goals high. On the second day of his agency’s existence, Ogilvy named five major blue chip companies – including legends like Shell and the Campbell Soup Company – as targets. All five eventually became his clients.

Landing new clients may be exciting, but losing existing ones is pure hell: one defecting client can inspire others to leave too and kill an entire agency. Therefore, always have your best and brightest people working on existing accounts rather than chasing after new ones. If you give your existing clients your all and make yourself indispensable, you’ll never be fired – no one kills the goose that lays the golden eggs.

To make yourself irreplaceable, get to know your clients intimately: use their products, buy their shares and understand their industry. At meetings, let them do most of the talking; you’ll learn more and seem more thoughtful and wise.

On average, clients change advertising agencies every seven years and this is a harrowing experience. But companies change their internal advertising managers even more frequently, and new managers are often tempted to sweep aside anything old, including your agency. Hence you should woo these new faces as you would new customers, and try to establish connections at every level of your client’s organization so one new face cannot topple your relationships.

Build your business by being a lasting, valuable partner to your clients.

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