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Confessions of an Advertising Man: A short summary (and then some…)

The third part of my series on books for creatives. I just summed the other parts up in just about 350 words. Dang. Should’ve put a TL;DR notice somewhere in the other parts.

Johan Toresson

January 22, 2016

3 Min Read


Johan Toresson (@jtoresson[email protected])

Gameport (Blekinge Business Incubator)

Gameport @ Facebook


Jeez, this was a long time coming. I've been working with the Creative Coast Festival and traveling for almost the whole 2015. Thought I'd get back into it now - so here's the summary. 

I’ll try to keep this brief enough.

  • Gather your company behind a strong vision and as the leader of your team, startup or company: Lead by inspiration rather than authority.

  • “Tolerate genius.”

  • Your decisions should be based upon your vision and the goals/milestones you’ve set up. Dare to aim high.

  • Don’t be afraid of attention, and do what it takes to get it. Unconventional ways might yield the greatest results.

  • Know that truffles grow in oak forests.

  • While keeping your eyes on your goals – do whatever it takes to keep the company going forward. When you have the option to be strategic with your choices, be that. When you don’t – make sure your team has food on their tables.

  • Listen and communicate with your audience. Understand what they see, who they are and get to know their wishes. Their wishes need not become the law, but knowledge might help you avoid pitfalls in your production.

  • Quality and profitability before growth.

  • Only top notch talent will deliver top notch content. Surround yourself with greater people, and make sure that your seniors help the rest of the team to realize their potential.

  • In the chapter “How to Get Clients” Ogilvy talks about how he’d rather not work with a company who saw advertising as a marginal mix in their marketing. When it comes to publishers – remember that it might be better to be their golden goose rather than just another developer in their portfolio. A large name might not be the best fit for your vision and your goals.

  • In the chapter “How to Write Potent Copy” Ogilvy states, based on research done, that “on average, five times as many people read the headline as the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” Remember this when writing press releases, newsletters and other public communication. (Also read this chapter twice – it contains a lot of thoughts on good copy.)

So I just summed the other parts up in just about 350 words. Dang. Should’ve put a TL;DR notice somewhere in the other parts.

I’d like to leave you with a few select tidbits from the book:

“In the best establishments, promises are always kept, whatever it may cost in agony and overtime.”

“People do not buy from bad-mannered liars.”

“It is important to admit your mistakes, and to do so before you are charged with them.”

“Any damn fool can put on a price reduction, but it takes brains and perseverance to create a brand”

“Managing an advertising agency is like managing any other creative organization – a research laboratory, a magazine, an architect’s office, a great kitchen”

“Our chef pâtissier was equally eccentric. Every night he left the kitchen with a chicken concealed in the crown of his Homburg hat. When he went on vacation he made me stuff two dozen peaches into the legs of his long underwear. But when the King and Queen of England were given a state dinner at Versailles, this roguish genius was chosen from all the pâtissiers in France to prepare the ornamental baskets of sugar and the petits fours glacé.”

“Few of the great creators have bland personalities. They are cantankerous egotists, the kind of men who are unwelcome in the modern corporation. Consider Winston Churchill. He drank like a fish. He was capricious and willful. When opposed, he sulked. He was rude to fools. He was wildly extravagant. He wept on the slightest provocation. His conversation was Rabelaisian. [..]”

“I admire people with gentle manners who treat other people as human beings.”

David Ogilvy 1911-1999

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