– the Father of Advertising

His years in the business appear to have taught him as much about the way the world works as they have about advertising and copy writing. Quotes which can be attributed to him (either because they come from part of his published works or because they were recorded in some other manner) generally either take the form of admonishing people not to assume that their potential clients are too stupid to understand what a product does, or they involve explanations of the best ways to relate to employees.

Today’s marketers and copy writers could learn a lot from Ogilvy in terms of how to conduct business and construct marketing campaigns. He was a firm believer in research, telling people who worked in advertising that they should not create something which only has value in how clever it is. An advertising campaign that is clever is something which will be valued, but it is much better to spend time looking at what the product or service being advertised, and construct the campaign around how it can help potential customers.

I believe that learning about the principles which Ogilvy followed will be as helpful to marketing officials as learning about his business acumen. These principles can be boiled down to one piece of advice: don’t be a bad employer just because you can. This is, as noted by the site brainpickings.org, quite similar to the advice “never be hard upon people who are in your power” which the author Charles Dickens is said to have shared with his son.

Other principles that Ogilvy worked by include the following:

  • Always be fair and honest in your own dealings; unfairness and dishonesty at the top can demoralise your business,
  • Hire managers and CEOs who can command respect from their staff,
  • If you ever find a man who is better than you are — hire him. If necessary, pay him more than you pay yourself.

These principles, both here and in the greater store of evidence we have for the way in which Ogilvy worked, suggest that he firmly believed in proper compensation, respect, and hard work. Interestingly, while he does believe that higher-ups in a company should be respected by their subordinates, he indicates that this respect should be earned, rather than automatically given. In a similar vein, he advocates for hiring people who are better than you are at any given task – even if that means paying them more than you are paid\pay yourself.

Ogilvy seems to have been a great supporter of equality (within the limits of his time, of course) and treating everyone working under him as a human being, rather than an office monkey. By all accounts, this approach helped him achieve his goals, precisely because people working under him felt respected and as if they had worth.

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