Book: Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy


A classic from 1963 and still very relevant, even when writing for the web.


Do the market research. Make the product the hero. The headline should sell the product and promise a benefit. Put identifying words in the headline when selling to a small group. Pretend you are writing a letter. “The more facts you tell, the more you sell”. Long copy better than short. Write copy in the form of a story. Pretend to be a magazine editor and you will get better results.



  • start by doing your homework: what kind of advertising have the competitors been doing and with what success, find out what consumers think about your kind of product, what language they use when discussing the subject, what attributes are important to them and what promise would be most likely to make them buy your brand
  • positioning: what the product does and for who is it for
  • brand image means personality
  • make the product the hero – whenever you can, make the product itself the hero of your advertising


  • make it fun to work in your agency, people do their best work in a happy atmosphere
  • insist that people arrive on time, even if you have to pay them bonuses to do so
  • great leaders: exude self-confidence, are never petty, do not have a crippling need to be universally loved, have the guts to make unpopular decisions, they are decisive
  • the most effective leader is the one who satisfies the psychological needs of his followers
  • every company should have a written set of principles and purposes


  • your headline should sell the product and should promise the reader a benefit
  • headlines that offer the reader helpful information attract above-average readership
  • if you sell a product which is bought by a small group, flag them by putting a identifying word in the headline
  • when you put your headline in quotes, you increase recall by an average of 28%
  • pretend you are writing your readers a letter
  • copy should be written in the language people use in everyday conversation
  • don’t write essays, tell your reader what your product will do for him or her and tell it with specifics
  • write your copy in the form of a story
  • long copy sells better than short
  • “the more facts you tell, the more you sell”
  • always: illustration first, headlines, copy
  • image caption should always include the brand name and the promise
  • pretend to be a magazine editor and you will get better results
  • the headline should promise a benefit, deliver news, offer a service, tell a significant story, recognize a problem or quote a satisfied customer
  • next to the positioning of your product, the most important variables to be tested are pricing, terms of payments, premiums and the format of your mailing
  • surveys can produce reliable results with amazingly small samples
  • new consumer products fail because: they do not offer any significant difference in quality, value, convenience or solutions
  • concentrate your time, brains and advertising on your successes – back your winners and abandon your losers
  • the task of advertising is not primarily one of conversion but rather of reinforcement and assurance
  • factual advertising sells (give real information about the product)