Advertising guru who redefined the industry

By JOHN TYLEE, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 23 July 1999 12:00AM

David Ogilvy, who died this week, was the last of the world’s advertising titans. A true visionary, intellectual and inspiration for generations of ad people, he is one of the few figures entitled to sit alongside the likes of Bill Bernbach, Leo Burnett, Ted Bates and Ray Rubicam in the pantheon of industry architects.

David Ogilvy, who died this week, was the last of the world’s

advertising titans. A true visionary, intellectual and inspiration for

generations of ad people, he is one of the few figures entitled to sit

alongside the likes of Bill Bernbach, Leo Burnett, Ted Bates and Ray

Rubicam in the pantheon of industry architects.



Long before the Saatchi brothers invaded the US, Ogilvy had been there

and done it. Long before advertising became a disciplined and

accountable business, Ogilvy understood the importance of scientific

data and research.



As he said in Ogilvy on Advertising (required reading for any aspirant

agency staffer): ’I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art

form, but as a medium of information.’



His experiences honed in the pragmatic world of US advertising bred in

him an undisguised loathing for eccentric creatives with an inflated

sense of their own importance and contempt for research. And, even if

his views could appear to be those of the most frightful snob, his

civilised and genteel manner more than compensated.



Indeed, although Ogilvy cut his teeth on Madison Avenue, his style was

altogether less aggressive than his great US contemporary, Rosser Reeves

- known as ’the blacksmith’ for the way he hammered home his

messages.



Ogilvy was no less pragmatic than Reeves but much less what would now be

called ’in your face’.



He believed that every ad was part of a long-term investment in the

brand.



Hence such memorable milestones as the ’Man in the Hathaway Shirt’ with

his trademark black eyepatch. Why the eyepatch? Simply because of a

research director’s observation that pictures with ’story appeal’

grabbed the attention like nothing else.



Ogilvy’s intellectual but pragmatic approach to life was the by-product

of an upbringing that was intellectually rich but cash poor. The son of

a classical scholar and Cambridge rugby blue, he lived as a boy in Lewis

Carroll’s house in Surrey with a nanny to see him through his childhood,

and a public school education (Fettes) to guide him through

adolescence.



Ogilvy’s rites of passage took place sweating over a hot stove at the

Hotel Majestic in Paris, selling Aga cookers door to door and, after

emigrating to the US in 1938, as a secret service man with the

euphemistic title of second secretary to the British embassy in

Washington.



He entered advertising from the curious direction of Pennsylvania, where

he had been working as a farmer among the Amish community. He had no

credentials and no clients, just dollars 6,000 in the bank and, at 38,

had never even written an ad.



It’s all a far cry from the Ogilvy & Mather that was bought by Martin

Sorrell’s WPP ten years ago for dollars 864 million. How was it

done?



In his 1997 autobiography, Ogilvy offered this recipe: ’First, make a

reputation for being a creative genius. Second, surround yourself with

partners who are better than you are. Third, leave them to get on with

it.’



Perhaps he might have added a few extra ingredients like an eye for the

main chance, iconoclasm and a sprinkling of genius.



1911: Born in West Horsley, Surrey



1931: Cook at the Majestic hotel, Paris



1932: Aga cooker salesman, Edinburgh



1935: Joins Mather & Crowther



1938: On sabbatical from Mather & Crowther, goes to the US to study

advertising



1939: Goes to work for George Gallup’s Audience Research Institute at

Princeton



1942-45: With secret service attached to British Embassy in

Washington



1946-48: Farmer in Pennsylvania among the Amish community



1948: Starts what was to become Ogilvy & Mather



1951: Ogilvy devises the man with the eyepatch for Hathaway shirts.

Sales increase 160 per cent



1963: Publishes Confessions of an Advertising Man. Book becomes

international bestseller



1967: Made CBE



1973: Moves to Touffou, a 14th-century castle in France



1975: Retires as O&M chairman. Becomes worldwide creative head



1977: Inducted into American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame



1978: Publishes his autobiography, Blood, Brains and Beer



1983: Ogilvy on Advertising published. Retires as worldwide creative

head



1989: Ogilvy group acquired by WPP. Named non-executive chairman of

WPP



1992: Steps down as WPP chairman. Becomes consultant and chairman

emeritus.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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