The history of advertising 6 - David Ogilvy's 'Confessions'.

If there was ever a time when the common perception that adland was a place peopled only by shallow-minded hucksters began to change, it was in 1963 when David Ogilvy's Confessions Of An Advertising Man hit the stores.

David Ogilvy's book remains the most successful advertising book of all time
David Ogilvy's book remains the most successful advertising book of all time

Not only was it the first book to bring advertising to the attention of the public at large, but it presented it as a thoughtful, professional business as well as a colourful one.

The fact that it remains the only book on advertising many people have ever read is testament to the durability of the Ogilvy & Mather founder's philosophy. His views on managing agencies, winning clients and building campaigns are as relevant in the internet age as they were when Ogilvy first espoused them.

Today, Confessions remains the most successful advertising book of all time, having sold more than 1.5 million copies. It has become a standard text in business schools, shaping the views of thousands of students and encouraging some to take up careers in advertising.

Asked why he had never written something similar, the legendary adman Ray Rubicam confessed that "David Ogilvy took it all and put it in his book".

The popularity of Confessions stems from its highly readable juxtaposition of Ogilvy's personal history, his advertising philosophy - that the purpose of advertising is to make sales - and management principles. Ogilvy called it "a textbook sugar-coated with anecdotes".

Ogilvy's biographer, Ken Roman, says: "What makes the book endure is Ogilvy's ability to distil experience into principles and state these in memorable aphorisms." Most of those aphorisms hold true 50 years later, from "You cannot bore people into buying" to "The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Don't insult her intelligence."

With Confessions, Ogilvy joined the elite of industry philosophers - Rosser Reeves, Leo Burnett and Bill Bernbach - who had clear views on what constituted good advertising and made sure their agencies practised what they preached.

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

- Ogilvy wrote Confessions with no great expectations it would be a success. Although a dozen publishers expressed an interest, he thought the book would sell no more than 4,000 copies.

- Seeing the book more as a way of attracting new business to his agency, Ogilvy assigned the royalties to his son as a 21st birthday present.

- The director of the US Travel Service, an O&M client, was so impressed with Confessions that he sent his copy to President Kennedy.

- An associate of Ogilvy told him he'd found a copy of Confessions in the erotica section of a Paris bookstore next to The Story Of O."There is much to be gained from a headline," the author replied.

You have

[DAYS_LEFT] Days left

of your free trial

Subscribe now

Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now
Share

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off Campaign's relaunch than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).