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Confessions of (Today's) Advertising Person: Ogilvy's Commandments on Campaign Building in 2017 - Part 2

In our first installment of this series, we explored commandments one through four of the “How to Build Great Campaigns” 1 chapter of David Ogilvy’s book, Confessions of an Advertising Man. The intent is to see if these commandments still hold up in today’s world of advertising.

This time, we’re tackling commandments five through seven. Here we go.


    This essentially means, “don’t be funny for the sake of being funny,” and I’m in this camp as well.

    This is really an extension of the “Big Idea” discussion in point number two. If humor makes sense for your audience and it’s essential to your big idea, then by all means proceed. But too often, campaigns go for the big laugh with little or no substance.

    Think of most Super Bowl ads. There’s so much pressure to make an impact on the industry’s biggest stage that brands and agencies forget or forgo their selling promises.


    I struggle a bit with the wording of this one. One could take this as meaning that you have to stay on top of and leverage every trend, fad, technology or channel that pops up (remember MySpace? Yeah, me neither).

    My edit would be, “MAKE YOUR ADVERTISING RELEVANT,” and it all comes back to knowing your audience. With all the data we have at our fingertips today, we have the ability to reach consumers when, where and how they’re going to be most receptive to our message.

    Sometimes it will take a contemporary approach. Sometimes it won’t. But it will always need to be relevant.


    Creation by committee is definitely a thing that every writer or designer deals with at some point and will continue to deal with throughout their careers. The more complicated a project, the more people who are going to provide input. Creating an e-commerce website is far more complex than putting together a print ad, so multiple points of view are inevitable.

    All that said, I couldn’t agree more with Mr. O’s sentiment here.

    No matter what you are creating and no matter how complex, someone on the team needs to defend the soul of the work, and the best candidate is the person or persons who breathed life into it in the first place.

    It happens every day, and it will happen until the end of time, but copy and design by committee compromises the quality of the end product. So as long as there is advertising, there will be a need for those who defend the integrity of the work.

That’s all for now. Check back soon for the final installment of this series covering commandments eight through eleven.

1Ogilvy, D. M. (1963). How to Build Great Campaigns. Confessions of an Advertising Man. (pp. 23-26).
New York, NY: Atheneum.