Book Summary: Ogilvy on Advertising

This is the Holy Bible of Advertising. You would think a book that was written in 1985 have no significance in this social world. But the fact is, every single person who works in an advertising industry start out with this book. Hence the name.

This book has loads to offer for anyone who is thinking of writing content.

I have summarized my learning from the book below. Or You can download it here.


  • Product
  • Customers
  • What your competitors are advertising


Dove – for women with dry skin vs for men with dirty hands

Brand Image

  • Personality – name, packaging, style of advertising, nature of product,
  • Consistently project the same image
  • People buy the Image


  • Unless the advertising consist of big ideas, it will pass like ship in the night
  • Comes form unconscious – it has to be well informed else it will be irrellevant
  • “Humility in the presence of a good idea” Albert Lasker
  • Horribiliy difficult to recognize a good idea.
    • Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
    • Do I wish I had thought of it myself?
    • Is it unique?
    • Does it fit the Strategy to perfection?
    • Could it be used for 30 years?

Make the product the hero

  • There are no dull products only dull writers.
  • Positively Good – You don’t have to convince your customers that your product is superior to competitors, but positively good.
    • What is good about your product – clearer, more honest , more informative job of saying it

Repeat your winners – repeat until it stops selling

  • You aren’t advertising to a standard army but to a moving parade (new prospect who fit in to the image you propose)
  • Run it at regular intervals – repeat till the research shows its worn out

Word of mouth

Campaigns enter culture

Tag line (just do it yaar), Darke aage jeet hai

Research & Analyze

Copy writer who knows his factors (the triggers which make people read advertisements) can reach many more readers than the one who doesn’t

Direct response – Advertisement contributing to sales (time,#buying)

  • Style vs what sells what is important
  • If doesn’t sell it isn’t creative

Creativity Relevance

  • Advertising reflects more of society than influence them
  • Long time for women to advertise smoking (social influence)
  • More explicit sex on novels not in ads


  • Sense of humor
  • Curiosity for products
  • Hard work
  • Intersting post & tv campaings
  • Think visually

Crown Prince

  • Power of analysis
  • Imagination
  • Sense of reality
  • Helicopter quality (birds eye view)
  • Headlines:
  • Containing news – sure-fire. (announcement of a product, improvment, new version)
  • Donot put in in the background. Let it stand out and cry out loud.
  • Include brand name in the headline (80% wont know what product/company it is other wise)
  • Specifics (asthma..women..children) work more than generics
  • If you put it in quotes it increases recall by 28%
  • READ: Tested Advertising Methods – John Caples


  • Subject of the illustration is all important (even a great photo won’t help you there)
  • Catches Readers Curiosity – invokes them to ask – “What goes on here”
  • If you don’t have the story tell make your package the subject of your illustration
  • End-result campaign (before, after)
  • Photographs > Drawings (not cartoons)
  • Use of characters known to consumers boosts recalls
  • Simple – one person in the focus. Crowd does attract people
  • Human face bigger than life size – BIG NO
  • Historical Subject – a big no
  • The subjects that interest you need not interest the readers
  • Babies, animals, sex – interest readers
  • People are interested in the pictures of their own sex.
  • 4 colors > black & white
  • Cooked > raw
  • When A client moans and sighs, Make his logo twice the size, If he still should prove refractory, show a picture of his factory, Only in the gravest cases, should you show the client’s faces
  • Headlines below are read more than headlines above

Copy first, do your own thing later


  • Promise not only in words but also in pictures
  • Largest possible type
  • Brand visible from long distance
  • Strong and pure colors
  • No more than 3 elements in your design


Good typography helps people read your copy

TV Commercials

  • Humor
  • Testimonials
  • Slice of life
  • Problem solution
  • Talking heads
  • Characters
  • Reason why
  • News
  • Emotion
  • Not so good:
    • Celebrity testimonials
    • Cartoons
    • Music vignetts
  • Better programs lesser chance of getting people to sign up

Tips for a great TV commercial

  • Brand Identification (Use the name within in first 10 secs) – Play games with it – spell it, flash it,
  • Show the package
  • Food in motion
  • Close ups – product hero of the commercial
  • Visual surprise – open with fire
  • When you have nothing to say sing it.
  • Sound effects – music not very much but sizzling noise of the frying pan- etc creates impact
  • Voice over < Talk on camera
  • Supers – type while you voice over
  • Avoid visual banality – show something the audience hasn’t seen before
  • Change of scene (less #)
  • Mnemonics Show the product in use
  • Everything is possible on TV
  • Make it crystal clear – most of the commercials are misunderstood
  • The grand scandal – TV commercial costs > program cost – so lesser the better


  • Identify the brand early in the commercial
  • Identify often
  • Promise a benefit early in the commercial
  • Repeat often

B2B Advertising

  • Advertise specifics – $ saved,%, Time etc
  • Testimonials
  • Demonstrations
  • Information – around product and role it plays to the customer
  • Layouts – Simple + editorial like pages → more readers
  • Headlines – 5 times readership as body content
  • Promise a benefit, deliver a news, quote a customer, tell a story,recognize a problem
  • Body copy – 10% of people read it.. they are mostly your prospects.
  • >350 words attracts more people to read it
  • Captions

Stimulate Inquiries

  • Toll free #
  • Close body copy with an offer

Analyze inquiries

  • Survey a sample – do they intend to buy or do they need information
  • Follow up with sales people
  • Inquiries to media (conversion from every media)

Advertisement to top managment

  • Avoid specifics
  • They are interested in cost savings only

Direct mail

  • Success = long mails
  • Invite people to order without going to store
  • Good photograph sells more if not use drawings
  • Testimonials increase credibility →sales
  • Coupons – mini ads (has photo)
  • To avoid keeping your mail for later:
  • Limited supply
  • Limited edition
  • Last time at this price
  • Special price for promptness
  • Identify the media competitors particularly in large
  • Media → sales more (repeat)

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