Confessions of (Today's) Advertising Person: Ogilvy's Commandments on Campaign Building in 2017 - Part 3
In our first installment and second installment of this series, we explored commandments one through seven 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 taking on the final four commandments. You ready? Then let’s go.
8. IF YOU ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO WRITE A GOOD ADVERTISEMENT, REPEAT IT UNTIL IT STOPS PULLING
In my experience, agencies and clients get tired of their own work well before consumers do. After months working on it together and finally getting it out the door, it can at times already feel stale. But you’ve got to let it do its thing.
Get it out there, keep a pulse on it and stay close to the numbers. If the product is selling, you’ve done your job.
Eventually a campaign will become stale to your consumers, but that still doesn’t mean you necessarily need to blow it up. Layering on new versions, extensions and distribution channels can breathe new life into a campaign and keep your message consistent over the long term.
9. NEVER WRITE AN ADVERTISEMENT WHICH YOU WOULDN’T WANT YOUR OWN FAMILY TO READ
This one requires a bit of explanation. While this sentiment is valuable advice, and I agree with it wholeheartedly, Mr. O’s supporting explanation of this commandment is really about telling the truth.
Advertising has always carried a stigma of dishonesty, and that is unfortunate. As a writer, you’re always pushing to say the best thing you can about a product, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of bending the truth a little too far.
But you can, and should, tell the truth about a product, and doing so can actually lead to some unexpectedly successful places.
In Bill Bernbach’s (a contemporary and competitor to Mr. O and the namesake of the agency Doyle Dane Bernbach or “DDB”) Think Small ad for Volkswagen, the creative team realized they couldn’t say that the VW Beetle was bigger or prettier than any of its competitors, so they didn’t. They just owned the fact that the car was small and ugly and not for everyone, but that was also okay.
The campaign was wildly successful, sales skyrocketed and an icon was born. Think Small is arguably the greatest campaign to have ever launched, and it’s all thanks to the simplest of ideas just tell the truth.
10. THE IMAGE AND THE BRAND
This one isn’t as explicit in its phrasing as many of the other commandments, so here’s an excerpt from this section of the book that does a good job providing additional context:
The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit.
The rest of the content speaks to long-term campaigning vs. short-term promotions. So we could summarize this commandment as, “BE DIFFERENT AND DON’T BE SHORT-SIGHTED.” Mr. O’s point is that everything you do either builds or takes away equity from the brand, so be consistent, plan long-term and build off what you’ve got versus changing things up all the time.
To me, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb, and stopping to ask yourself what your decisions will do to the brand in the long run is a good head check from time to time.
11. DON’T BE A COPYCAT
Word. Nothing else to say here. I’d just be copying someone else.
1Ogilvy, D. M. (1963). How to Build Great Campaigns. Confessions of an Advertising Man. (pp. 23-26). New York, NY: Atheneum.