Quotes from David Ogilvy, practicality, and life

“Instead of making do we make new.”

Barbara Strickland

Blogging means I get to look at different things and write about them. It is a restful change from  trying to write a novel, I did say trying. Seriously, blogging helps reset my head. Losing yourself in the world of fiction both as a writer and a reader, is so easy to do. Writing non-fiction helps maintain a balance by keeping me connected to the real world around me. That world is where I gain new knowledge and hopefully this improves my writing.

Reading about David Mackenzie Ogilvy, a businessman and an advertising executive also referred to as the ‘Father of Advertising’ is a great example, and hence this blog. For advertising to work, you have to make your words count. For a writer, it is also all about making each word count. Otherwise, why would someone choose to read your work.

Establishing himself as the owner of one of the most famous and largest advertising agencies in the world, his influence helped shape the advertising business in the post-World War II period. I chose to write about David Ogilvy because I was impressed with the way some of his quotes reflected his determination to achieve success. He was all about knowing exactly what had to be done. ‘Confessions of an Advertising Man’ according to research remains one of the most popular and famous books on the subject of advertising. Why? My research leaves me to deduce it was because he was practical, believed in basics, believed in getting to the point.

The quotes below reflect a practicality we can apply to writing in general and to life. And these days we humans lack practicality. We break an item; we replace it. Heck, we replace it because a new model comes out. In our current world – everything is replaceable. Instead of making do we make new.  As a society we seem to be gadget orientated, besotted with things to make us look better while we do whatever is required of us, rather than relying on ourselves to be better.  True success is not about gadgets, it’s about our behaviour, about the care we take to learn what we need to know. If we look closer at what is in front of us, we may find we don’t need to get new; we may find the resources to make do.  

David Ogilvy believed the following:

The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters, and woolly speeches.

Obviously, we don’t want to succeed in his company business, but we do want to succeed in our chosen field. We need reflection before we act. Reflection brings clarity, clarity leads to getting our ideas across to others.  Otherwise, you have exactly what the second quote implies – woolly. In fact, doesn’t this apply in all aspects of life? 

David’s ten hints to succeed in advertising follow. I have applied a more universal meaning to each of them. I didn’t have to go searching to achieve this. Instead of new I made do with some very wise original words and applied them sensibly to a writer’s life or perhaps just life. I did much the same with my post on John Steinbeck. Instead of creating select groups with select rules we should be concentrating on creating global understanding. People that succeed in their own field succeed because they think on a global level.

The ten hints

  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing.

I haven’t but will out of curiosity if nothing else as the reviews demonstrate very mixed reactions.

  1. Write the way you talk. Naturally.

I was unsure of this until I read Hint 4.

  1. Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs.

Doesn’t getting to the point create better understanding?

  1. Never use jargon words e.g.  reconceptualizedemassificationattitudinallyjudgmentally.

This is a funny one but when I considered further, I realised it’s important to be exact but being exacting is a whole new ballgame.

  1. Never write more than two pages on any subject.

I love this – don’t get caught up in our own world, our cleverness, it’s about those we want to communicate with and not us.

  1. Check your quotations.

Don’t cheat others of their glory, celebrate your understanding because of those that came before you by giving credit where it belongs.

  1. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.

Edit, edit, edit again and then again, or don’t do things in haste.

  1. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

Ask for help.

  1. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

What reaction do you want from your audience?

  1. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

I think this is exactly the same as Hint 9. Think about it – it’s all about the reaction we want and that depends on the action we take.

When it comes to the final reckoning, we are talking about communicating and communicating is a two-way street:

“-it’s all about the reaction we want and that depends on the action we take.”

Barbara Strickland

I’ve quoted myself twice. That’s really sad but fun.

Alla prossima,


As always images are courtesy of http://www.unsplash.com

Questions for me? Want to share your views and ideas? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and I will get back to you.

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