7 inspiring advertising quotes from the father of advertising David Ogilvy

July 14, 2022 | 7 minute read
Michael McNichols
Senior Content Manager
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Take inspiration for your campaigns from advertising legend David Ogilvy.

  • Find out who he was and why he’s called the father of advertising
  • Learn his philosophy of advertising
  • Learn seven of his quotes to motivate you to do your best work

Who was David Ogilvy, and why should digital advertisers care

A legendary copywriter, publicist, and author, David Ogilvy wrote many a successful headline and shaped advertising as we know it. Though he died at the ripe old age of 88 in 1999, he laid a foundation for what we call digital advertising today.

Many refer to him as the “father of advertising” and “the original Mad Man.”

He helped entire brands establish themselves and built his own agency using direct response ads in major newspapers to get leads.

He understood that advertising was about the customer. Who they and what they want should inform your ad campaigns more than anything else.

Brand-safety strategies and contextual intelligence all follow that important axiom.

How can you place an ad in the right context and get it in front of the right audiences if you don’t know who your customers are?

Take inspiration from David Ogilvy for your advertising campaigns

Find out how to do targeting research for contextual intelligence to ensure your ads reach your audiences, and you don’t waste your ad spend.

David Ogilvy’s philosophy of advertising

Ogilvy believed that the function of advertising is to sell. However, you have to respect the intelligence of your audiences.

You can’t overly push or mislead them. Success comes from building trust and offering customers what they want, be it solutions to problems, ways to make more money, avenues for escape and enjoyment, relief from suffering, and so on.

Ogilvy’s philosophy of advertising held four major principles:

  • Creative brilliance and big ideas

Craft strong messaging to resonate with audiences. Advertising needs a solid foundation of knowing what audiences want and need to effectively reach and sell to them.

  • Research

Ogilvy actually called himself a research director when he started his own agency. Research means everything in advertising.

Know your product and the value it offers, but know your customers even better. The best advertising results from proper research.

See how to anticipate customer needs with a customer data platform (CDP).

  • Actual results

No matter how good an ad is, it has to generate results. Otherwise, what’s the point?

There’s more to a good ad than just creating it.

Where is it showing up? Is it brand safe? Does it use the right phrasing and offers to strike a chord with customers?

  • Discipline

Make no mistake. Advertising is work. Ogilvy created slide and film presentations called “Magic Lanterns” to pass his knowledge and experience on. He also created training programs for up-and-coming advertisers.

Results come from honing your skills and sitting down to get to work. Passiveness gets you nowhere.

What else can we learn from David Ogilvy?

What else can we learn from David Ogilvy? Heaps and heaps, actually.

But let’s narrow it down to these seven inspiring quotes about advertising. See if they help you look at your ad campaigns in a different light and if you can tackle them in a different, more effective way.

7 advertising quotes from David Ogilvy

Take inspiration from David Ogilvy for your advertising campaigns

1. “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.”

Measurement shows you the right path to advertising success.

How are your ads performing across all your media?

  • Are people clicking through?
  • Are your ads reaching actual people and not falling to advertising frauds?
  • Are you making the best use of your ad spend?

Numbers don’t lie. Tweak, improve, and optimize according to what your metrics say.

Take inspiration from David Ogilvy for your advertising campaigns

2. “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”

90% of people remember ads better if they’re funny.

Online ads disrupt someone when they’re online. Some people might find them annoying or intrusive.

But if an ad makes them smile or laugh?

Then there’s a better chance they’ll click on it.

They might even tell their family and friends about the ad.

Humor humanizes your brand and shows you get your customers.

After all, if you can make someone laugh, you demonstrate that you understand them and their needs.

Learn why humor makes your advertising stand out with the Happiness Report.

Take inspiration from David Ogilvy for your advertising campaigns

3. “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.

An effective ad isn’t about the ad or even the brand. It’s about the customer.

People don’t care about your products or solutions. They care about what your products and solutions will do for them.

The more direct you can get, the better.

Need examples?

  • You don’t sell dentistry. You sell a whiter, brighter smile.
  • You don’t sell kickboxing lessons. You sell self-defense and getting fit.
  • You don’t sell marketing automation. You sell simplified, streamlined marketing.
  • You don’t sell a customer loyalty program. You sell more loyal and engaged customers.

Take inspiration from David Ogilvy for your advertising campaigns

4. “I don’t know the rules of grammar. If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language.”

Avoid jargon and marketing-speak in your ads. Keep your copy simple and easy to understand.

Try to use the words and phrasing your customers do. It shows you’ve done your research and know how to communicate with them.

And don’t always worry about proper grammar. Worry that your ads are understandable, get to the point, and make an impact.

No one cares if you miss a comma or don’t write a complete sentence. They care if you offer them actual value.

Take inspiration from David Ogilvy for your advertising campaigns

5. “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your own family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine. Do as you would be done by. If you tell lies about a product, you will be found out.”

Trust means everything to a brand’s reputation. If you mislead or outright lie to your audiences, why would they buy from you?

Brand safety means putting out ads that don’t harm your brand reputation or offend someone.

Brand suitability, however, means they have the right context and suit your messaging better.

Aim for both, but remember that brand suitability comes down to context and how well your ads, offers, and products suit your customers.

Never forget you’re one human communicating to another. How would you feel if your colleague or coworker led you astray?

Avoid fraud. Find out everything you need to know about connected TV (CTV) and ad fraud with this infographic.

Take inspiration from David Ogilvy for your advertising campaigns

6. “Consumers still buy products whose advertising promises them value for money, beauty, nutrition, relief from suffering, social status, and so on.”

The golden rule of all advertising: Offer real, genuine value.

If you don’t have that, you have nothing.

Know what your customers want, and provide it. That’s really why the best ads work.

Take inspiration from David Ogilvy for your advertising campaigns

7. “Don't bunt. Aim out of the ballpark. Aim for the company of immortals.”

Don’t be shy. Be ambitious. Make your advertising the best it can be.

All the tools you might need are readily available:

Get out there. Publish ads. Tweak and improve based on the results.

Then pass on your knowledge and experience to others. Immortals and legends stay in people’s minds because of how they helped someone else succeed.

Learn more about anticipating customer needs and working off the results of your ad campaigns with:

Find out how to create more effective ads and measure their performance with Oracle Advertising.





Michael McNichols

Senior Content Manager

Michael McNichols is a Senior Content Manager for Oracle Digital Marketing. He has over ten years of experience in professional writing and has been widely published.

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