David Ogilvy, in what is perhaps one of history’s greatest understatements, referred to himself plainly as an “advertising man”. The truth is that, in many circles, Ogilvy is though of, even today, as the advertising man, an idol in an industry where egos often run very high.
Though he first retired over thirty years ago, his writings and teachings are still standard reading for college students today. Over the course of his 40-plus year career he helped create many of advertising’s most famous print ads, he founded Ogilvy and Mather, an advertising agency is still thriving today, and he wrote two books that are still relevant today.
Ogilvy was known for his laser-focused efforts on creating ads that “make the cash register ring”. Though his approach was not as “creative” as others in the field, it was very effective. His ads also tended to favor longer body copy, including at least one ad that contained some 10,000 words. In fact, Ogilvy’s first book, “Confessions of an Advertising Man” was originally written as a lengthy piece of direct marketing, mailed out to prospective clients.
Though Ogilvy died in 1999, he left behind a powerful legacy and one that any writer, no matter the field, can glean something from. Even today, in the age of the Internet, his philosophies, Ogivlyisms and rules remain just as effective today as they did forty years ago.
What are some tips Ogilvy has to teach bloggers, here is just a sample.
7. Focus on Your Headline
Headline writing, or title writing for bloggers, is a crucial and undervalued art. A good headline should pull readers into an article make them want to invest the time to see what is inside. However, at the same time, it should give as much pertinent information as practical because many times more people will read the headline than the body copy. The best headlines will convey the information that the reader needs to know, while encouraging them to read deeper into the work, something that is not easy to do in under ten words.
David Ogilvy’s most famous headline was in an advertisement for Rolls Royce “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”. It is a headline proudly featured in his books and often studied by advertising students.
6. Subheads are Important Too
If you have a lot of copy, it is important to break it up regularly with subheads. Subheads make a longer work more “skimmable”, letting people quickly get the overall idea of what is inside and they also make it easier for those reading the full work by giving them breaks. It also makes the copy less intimidating to read by making it seem shorter than it actually is.
5. Include Captions with Photos
This is something even I don’t do very often. However, photo captions are many times more likely to be read than body copy so it makes sense, if you include images, to include captions with them. Ideally, a caption should be descriptive of the photograph but should also further the message of the larger work.
4. Write to Your Target Audience
When writing it is important to determine who your target audience is and write toward them. When possible you should use the language, terminology and writing patterns typical of those you are trying to reach. If you are writing to journalists, write in a journalistic style, if you’re targeting engineers, write like an engineer. The goal is to have your writing seem familiar to your target group and create a connection with them.
3. If You Don’t Have a Lot to Say – Don’t Say a Lot
Though Ogilvy favored lengthy advertising copy and never shied away from it, he understood that not every company needed a 10,000 word diatribe to explain why their product was the best. Don’t be afraid to write a lot of copy if it is necessary, well-written copy will be read, but don’t write a lot of there isn’t much to say.
2. End With a Call To Action
The call to action is the most important part of any advertisement. Do you want people to buy your product, vote for a certain candidate, use your service or change the way they think? Without a call to action, even the best-written advertisement is a waste and the same holds true for a blog entry.
It is not enough to tell people how you feel or what you think, you have to explain why this is important to others and what you would like them to do in response to it. A call to action can be as simple as “leave a comment” or as involved as changing the way they live their lives.
Your goal isn’t just to get people to see your point of view, but to get them to take some kind of action. To have that happen, you have to spell out the change you want to see.
1. Be Informative
Passing along knowledge and information is the best way to both encourage people to read your work, whether it is an advertisement or a blog entry, but also the best way to build trust with your readers. Giving your readers valuable information is a powerful tool for making you more authoritative in your field and getting your readers to follow your advice.
Remember, one of Ogilvy’s famous sayings is that “The Consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.”
Treat your readers with respect and give them good information. Encourage them to trust you by being the best in your field and believing in your product, whether it is you, your site or something you are trying to sell.
To many, this may seem very basic, but the effect Ogilvy had on the advertising world was nothing but amazing.
Ogilvy taught the advertising industry how to write and, even today, his books are used as key texts in colleges. However, his lessons go well beyond just the advertising world and can help improve the writing of any one who has a message to get across.
He is a man who is well worth studying, both as an interesting character in history, and as a powerful communicator that helped revolutionize an industry. Even though not all of his lessons apply to every industry, there are still many that all of us can carry away.
For more tips on applying Ogilvy’s philosophy to blogging, check out Copyblogger.