For this week’s feature (p26) Campaign asked Winston Fletcher to apply
his skills as an author to assess the four most influential books
written about advertising - books that have changed the way clients go
about buying advertising and agencies go about creating it.
He chose the Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard, Madison Avenue USA by
Martin Mayer, Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy and
Reality in Advertising by Rosser Reeves. The first three of these books
were worldwide bestsellers, and Rosser Reeves’ tome, which set out the
theory of the Unique Selling Proposition, also had a powerful influence.
What these books failed to offer, although each in its way tried, is a
foolproof scientific theory to explain the way advertising works.
Freudian psychology, Packard claimed; added value, Mayer said; the USP,
Reeves wrote; stick to key principles for success, Ogilvy said.
What is significant, as Fletcher notes, is that all four titles were
written in the space of six years and nearly 40 years ago. Perhaps
people dedicate themselves so single-mindedly to getting, keeping and
pleasing clients today that there is no energy left to search for the
next universal theory. Wherever the truth lies, these influential books
should not be dismissed as ancient codswallop by anyone in agencies or
client companies today.
The fact that no other advertising books have had so much impact for
almost four decades has not harmed the quality of the best work, but may
account for the continued lack of respect for advertising shown by
financial directors and company chairmen.
If the industry has not found itself able to produce a single
influential book that explains the power of advertising in 40 years,
perhaps it should not be surprised at the way many senior clients do not
see advertising as a long-term investment -- like people and machinery -
but merely a cost to be justified in this fiscal year.