Get ready to unlock the wisdom of David Ogilvy, a titan in the world of modern advertising, and let his lessons elevate your approach to work and life. Brace yourself as Mike dissects his seminal work, Confessions of an Advertising Man, and uncover how to harness your first-class mind and deliver concise, impactful communication. Mike discusses how the art of storytelling resonates with your audience and the power of simplification for success. Ogilvy’s insights will have you reshaping your everyday practices, from get rid of negativity in your team to establishing yourself as a commanding authority in your field.
Here’s your chance to take a deep dive into David Senra’s Simply Founders podcast that brings to light the stories of diverse founders, including Ogilvy. Sink into the 20 remarkable lessons from Ogilvy’s book and the masterful ad campaigns of Rolls Royce and Dove Soap that made advertising history. Mike explores doing first-class business, the fallacy of committee-led innovation, and the principles of effective advertising. What’s more, you’ll learn the vital traits of exceptional leaders and the significance of keeping promises. So, brace yourselves for Ogilvy’s unconventional perspective on truth and genius. And don’t forget to sign up for Mike’s weekly newsletter to stay on the path of greatness maximization.
Check out the video version of this episode below:
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Episode transcript below:
Speaker: Mike Malatesta
Hey everybody, welcome back to my free Thinking Friday solo episode. I’m Mike. Thanks for joining me on the show. As a reminder, every Friday I do a shorter podcast episode about something that interests me, intrigues me, something I’ve heard about and something I think you’ll find interesting, and on Mondays I drop a longer form conversational episode where I am talking with someone who’s had some amazing success in their life and we talk about how it happened, but, more importantly, we get to the root of not only how it happened but why it matters to you. So if this is your first time joining me, thank you, I welcome you. If you like what you hear here, please hit the follow button and subscribe to the show and if you’re back as a regular listener and part of my normal and hopefully growing and ever-growing audience, thank you so much for coming back and I hope that I deliver for you today, which is my goal every time.
So today I am going to talk about David Ogilvy and for those of you who don’t know who David Ogilvy was, he lived from 1911 to 1999. He was born in Great Britain, in the UK, but eventually made his way to the US, and David is considered by many to be the father of modern advertising. He had a very, very successful firm, ogilvy and Mather. I believe it’s still could be part of a bigger conglomerate now. But David wrote a book called Confessions of an Advertising man. Book was written in 1963. And I am a very big fan, as I told you before and you and I have talked about, of a podcast called Simply Founders. David Senra is the person who produces that podcast and what David does every week is he reads a biography and then he talks about the biography. Normally the biography is written by a founder of a company, like in this case with David Ogilvy, but he also does other kind of nichey things with biographies, so it’s autobiographies and biographies. In this case, david Ogilvy’s book is an autobiography Confessions of an Advertising man and I just love listening to that podcast because I feel like every time I listen I learn something new and I get something that I can incorporate into my own life and or sometimes share with you. So in this case, I’m going to share with you 20 ideas from this Confessions of an Advertising man book by David Ogilvy that he wrote in 1963. And David’s very famous for a lot of ad campaigns, but Rolls Royce and Dove Soap come to mind because they’re still products that are very well known and used every day throughout the world. One of the things that he came up with for Rolls Royce, for example, was that at 60 miles an hour in a Rolls Royce, the only thing that you hear is the sound of the electric clock inside the inside the car, and so may not seem that transformational now, but that was a transformational type of message that lasted a really really long time, and I believe the Dove Soap is similar, where they’re still using parts of what he came up with in the Dove Soap Advertising today, in 2023. So, anyway, I encourage you to check out the Founders’ Podcast with David Senra. I just think it’s fabulous, and he is so committed to exploring success and then sharing what he learns from the books he reads, so this was inspired by him doing that episode, and so here are 20 ideas from David Ogilvy’s book.
First one is about minds, and he says you have a first class mind, stretch it. I thought that’s very interesting because so many all of us have first class minds, or almost all of us have first class minds, but how often do we stretch them? It feels to me like, more often than not, we constrict them rather than stretch them. So have a first class mind and stretch it. Number two is about memos. The longer your memos, the least likely, the less likely they are to be read by people who have the power to act on them. Think about that. It’s hard to write a short memo. It’s hard to write a short anything that’s effective. It’s very hard to take. It’s a lot easier to add words than it is to track from. So I think it’s a great message, something to think about. Say things succinctly, say them short and get them out the door and people will read them and act on them. Next is success. David says permanent success has rarely been built on frivolity. People do not buy from clouds. In other words, take your work seriously.
Number four business, only first-class business, and that in a first-class way. So this second time he talked about first-class mind, now first-class business. I believe that’s very hard, but I believe in that too. Do everything you can the very best way you can. It won’t pay off in the beginning, but it will pay off long-term. Number five unhappy people. David says get rid of sad dogs who spread doom. That is something I completely relate to. I’m sure you do as well, it seems like all these people who are down on everything that you spend the most energy with, and it should be exactly the opposite. I was just having a conversation with my brother-in-law about some people in his work who are sad dogs. It was very frustrating for him. He didn’t spend all of his time thinking about and trying to keep these sad dogs happy, and sad dogs can’t be made happy. They can only spread doom, as David says.
Number six expertise. Pick a subject and make yourself an authority on it. That’s great advice. Number seven storytelling. The more you tell, the more you sell. One of the quotes in the book from David is the customer is not a moron, she’s your wife. So, in other words, tell a story that resonates with he or she and you will likely sell more product or service or whatever it is you’re selling.
Number eight ideas. Big ideas are usually simple ideas. Big ideas are usually simple ideas. Simple as possible. Einstein said that, but no simpler. Simple as possible, but no simpler. I think that’s the right reference. So big ideas are usually simple ideas.
Number nine committees. This I love. Search all the parks and all your cities. You’ll find no statues of committees. You find statues of people who have done something with their lives. You find statues and you find buildings with names on it people who have done something with their lives, and there’s no buildings and no statues that are made for committees, only individuals, and I think that’s largely true. So, anyway, not a fan of committees. Number 10, effective advertising. You aren’t advertising to a standing army, you are advertising to a moving parade. In other words, understand your audience and keep making sure that your messaging is pertinent and important and meaningful to your audience.
Number 11, great leaders. Great industrial leaders are always fanatically committed to their jobs. They are not lazy or amateurs. In other words, great leadership doesn’t happen. It doesn’t just happen, it’s intentional. It’s the byproduct of many, many good habits repeated over and over and over again. I think Aristotle might have been the first one to talk about habits in that way, and Steve Jobs, as I recall, was a big fan of Aristotle and habits. Great leaders don’t just happen.
Number 12, promises. In the best companies, promises are always kept, whatever it may cost, in agony and overtime. That’s a super important point there, because it’s really easy to cut corners when you’ve made a promise that sucks for you and that’s happened to all of us. I’m sure. You commit to something, you make a promise on it because you think you have the right solution or whatever it is, and it turns out that it costs you way more money, it takes you way more time to fulfill the promise and there is always a thought, at least, that you could just break the promise a little bit because it’s be better for you. It may not be better for the client or customer, but it’d be better for you. And David is saying don’t, do not do that. Ignore that thought. Deliver on the promise and you’ll make it back later.
Number 13, the truth. David says tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating. Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating. I like that. Number 14, genius. David says tolerate, genius. There are very few men of genius. Remember.
This was written in 1963. Almost without exception, they are disagreeable, and he was disagreeable. In fact, forbes once wrote an article and I think the headline of the article was is David Ogilvy a genius with a question mark? And according to the book, david asked his lawyer to check into whether they could sue Forbes for having put the question mark instead of it being a statement. David Ogilvy is a genius. So he had a little bit of an ego on top of his genius. And he’s saying, almost without exception that’s just the way it is with geniuses. I’m not a genius, so I don’t know that for sure, but I’ll take it.
Number 15, knowledge. We prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance. In other words, if you don’t know something, find it out, don’t pretend. Number 16, aim high. David says don’t bunt, aim out of the park, aim for the company of the mortals. And I say why not? Why not aim high? We may not get to where we aim, but we’ll always get higher than where we would if we didn’t aim high. That’s my belief.
Number 17, pay. David says pay peanuts and you get monkeys. I heard that for the first time really early in my career, back in the late 80s. I think someone said that and I thought, wow, that’s really wise. That person came up with that and I’ve heard it many times since then, but I didn’t know that the origin was with David Ogilvy. So anyway, pay, you get it. Pay peanuts and you get monkeys.
Number 18, make stuff that people want. He says we make advertisements that people want to read. Well, all content, everything you make, should be made with the ideal and the hope that people will want to read it, consume it and act on it. And it’s not just advertisements, it’s everything. Number 19, incompetence. David says do not tolerate incompetence. It is demoralizing for professionals to work alongside incompetent amateurs, so kind of like the sad thing about it. You have some people who just are never gonna be happy. They could be super talented but they’re never gonna be happy and they bring everybody else down. Can’t have that. And unfortunately there are some people who, while they may not be incompetent, they are unable to do or unwilling to do what you need or want them to do in your organization or in your life. And those are people that you need to replace, and as quickly as possible.
And the last one number 20 is talent. David says talent is most likely to be found among nonconformist, dissenters and rebels. It sort of reminds me of his genius thing number 14, about tolerating genius. I don’t know that I completely agree with this one because I’ve met a lot of talented people who are certainly not dissenters. They may be rebels and they may be a little bit more dissenters. They may be rebels and they may be a little nonconformist but maybe not dissenters. So I’ll leave that one with you to sort of digest and see what you think. But I do believe that, boy, when you find talent and the talent isn’t disruptive spend as much time with your talent as you as the energy you spend with these sad dogs and incompetent people, because I know you tolerate them for a long, long time. I know I do and I know we’re alike in that way. So there you go.
Those are the takeaways that I got from the Founders podcast when David was talking about the confessions of an advertising man, the book written by David Ogilvy in 1963. And this is what, 60 years later and man haven’t lost much. They have not lost much. So I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. I do thank you for investing your time and energy with me today and I hope that investment paid off and brought you some value. And if it did, as I mentioned at the beginning, please consider following and subscribing to the show, sharing this episode with your friends, sending me a comment or an idea for a podcast that you wanna want me to do or you’d like to hear. And until we meet next time, please maximize your greatness and make your future your property, something that you are very, very proud to own. Until next time, see ya.
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