OPINION: Industry’s classic texts remain valid to this day

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.

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.



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