David Ogilvy worked in Madison Avenue, New York, during the period when Mad Men is set. It was a fast, sharp world where work very easily blurred into play and play into . . . if not quite the worst debauchery . . . right next door to it.
Of course Don Draper works hard, though probably not as hard as Ogilvy who came from Scottish stock and believed in the virtues of having your nose deep on the grindstone.
Another thing he believed in was that advertising was all about selling. Not for him the constant award hunting of modern admen. His award was his client’s sales turnover, a more precious gold for him than the Gold of a winner at the Cannes advertising films festival.
That famous line? It was for Rolls Royce cars and remember this was for a time when cars were a lot noisier. At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.
It is a masterpiece of a line, with all the quality of the product built-in. Says all you need to know about the quality of a Rolls – and there isn’t an over the top, Amazing, Incredible, or even Great in sight.
Although clients being clients, it was reported that when the senior Rolls engineer first saw the line his only comment was, “Must get that damm clock fixed.”
Another of Ogilvy’s principles was that all good advertising came from a knowledge of the consumer. He worked with the Gallup organisation early in his career and that background stayed with him.
He respected the customer, another of his principles was that the consumer is not a moron, she is your wife. He had many rules for how an agency should be run and Ogilvy and Mather, his company, had branches all over the world that ran on his philosophies. He told his managers to always hold sales meetings in rooms too small for the audience, even if it means hold them in the WC!
He believed that standing room only creates an atmosphere of success, as in theatres and restaurants, while a half-empty auditorium smells of failure.
Ogilvy told his copywriters to never write an advertisement you wouldn’t want your own family to read. You don’t tell lies to your own wife – don’t tell them to mine.
That illustrates a major difference to Don Draper but hey – Ogilvy was a salesman. He was also direct, chauvinist and aggressive.
For Ogilvy a headline should use plain language, be brief as possible and contain a benefit. If a picture was used there should always be a caption – his Gallup background told him captions to pictures were guaranteed a readership.
To get into an Ogilvy agency was an achievement, a standard that worked for you throughout your career. He made a point of never recruiting what he called dull, pedestrian hacks.
Ogilvy’s aggressive side came out when after he had retired, much to his disgust, his agency was sold to Martin Sorrell’s WPP. Ogilvy didn’t like Sorrell, calling him an Odious Little S*it.
After Sorrell bought the agency he signed his first 12 months report ODS. Ogilvy later changed his mind, went to work for Sorrell and said he wished he had met him 40 years earlier.
A meeting between Don Draper and David Ogilvy would be sight to see. Maybe Mad Men should write one?