Book Review: Ogilvy on Advertising

I’ve just finished reading Ogilvy on Advertising and even though I’ve never held an advertising job, and don’t intend to pursue that career – I absolutely loved it.

The book itself feels great in your hand – terrific look and feel, and is filled with pearls of wisdom about advertising on a range of subjects from how to make TV commercials that sell to competing with P&G.

I’m not quite sure how I ended up picking up this book, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from it, but I breezed through it, and felt annoyed the few times I had to put it down to get to the real world.

I’ve learned a few things that I hope to use for OneMint and some of my otherร‚ย  work, and ultimately if you think about it – advertising is selling, and a lot of us have to do it at some point or the other in our careers.

The book is divided into chapters with each chapter tackling a specific issue and providing answer to a specific problem. These few titles will tell you what I’m talking about:

  • Jobs in advertising – and how to get them?
  • How to advertise foreign travel?
  • Advertising for good causes

The book is filled with actionable and practical tips for advertisers and there are many many tips and guidelines on how to do certain things.

For instance, Mr. Ogilvy asks everyone that they advertise with black words on white background and not the other way round since that makes it harder to read. In another instance he talks about having the caption of an image below it and not above it to be read by more people.

Another example that I liked came from the chapter on direct mail, in which he writes a small section on television for persuading people to buy directly by mail or phone he writes the following:

The better the program on which your commercials appear, the fewer sales you make. When viewers are bored by an old movie, they are more likely to pick up the telephone and order your product than when they are riveted by an episode of Dallas.

There are many many rules like that, and there are a lot of interesting stories as well – like one where he says that while advertising for Cessna Citation business jets they sent out live carrier pigeons with an invitation to take a free ride in the jet!

He says that some recipients actually ate the pigeon but many returned alive and they sold at least one jet for $600,000!

There are many ad copies in the book as well, and I found myself flipping through them at leisure and looking at all the great stuff there.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am now looking forward to reading his first book as well. I don’t however feel that everyone will like it as much as I did.

In my opinion, you should at least have some interest in advertising, or must be required to sell in some capacity to truly enjoy and appreciate the book, and a lot of people simply don’t have these type of job functions.

But in case you are interested in the book you can find Ogilvy on Advertising on Amazon.

Disclosure: Both book links are Amazon affiliate links.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: Ogilvy on Advertising”

  1. I wonder why they did not notice. That reminds me that my comments section is broken for IE 7 and lower version. One of my friend commented in person that he went to put a comment but he could not because of the confusion created by that distortion. Anyway I have tried with all might and later found to be IE Bug; IE 8 is perfect.

  2. I liked “black words on white background”. After reading this, I realized that advertisement is more of common sense. If you can think in terms of how your customers will react then you can set the stage so that customers react the way you want them to react. This also makes a difference between good enough and perfect. When you offer a cup of tea to someone in a serving tray then offer with the handle of cup towards the receiver.

    Overall, good reminder. I will be tempted to read this book after I have read my current book on persuasion and surviving in office politics.

    1. There was one blog that had this dark gray on black and that was really really hard to read. I used to subscribe to that through Google Reader because that was the only practical way of reading it. When they cut short the feed to show only a preview I unsubscribed and never went back to the site. Wonder how many visitors they lost like that!

  3. Seth Godin post something almost everyday. I was hearing his podcast he mentioned that, by posting everyday, he sometimes fails and sometimes some post receive a huge feedback. He mentioned if ” A person has failed more than he did, that person will do fine”, which was quite interesting for me. I agree not all his books are equally good, neither I had the chance to read each piece, but still think his books are thought provoking and gives good ideas. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. He is certainly popular and I can’t recall why I stopped reading him, just lost interest I guess. Which of his books would you recommend for someone who hasn’t read anything from him at all? I might pick it up after I’m done with what I’m reading right now ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Hi Manshu,

    Great post again. This book is in my read list and I guess after reading the post above, I need to change priority list of books in my list and bring this book to the top.
    I also read a lot and some other books that I have found interesting are from Seth Godin. He has about 9-10 books and each one is a master piece. I remember he shared ideas like:

    1) Why Billboards Display Time and Temperature? So that people look at those and while they look at those they also look at banners ads. Otherwise who will look at those advertisements. Marketers are just doing more branding for their product.
    2) Why do some Marketers create adventurous products for children? Because the children will talk to their friends about those products and ask their parents to buy for them or buy it for themselves.
    I have two interesting posts on marketing which some of the readers might be interested in reading:


    Once again, Thank you and good post.


    1. I used to read Godin’s blog some time ago, but then lost interest. I guess I will pick up one of his books to see if they interest me or not, as this is the second time in a week that someone mentioned him.

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