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Who Was David Ogilvy?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
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David Ogilvy, the "Father of Advertising," is considered a genius and a pioneer in his field. His success has inspired many people to want to work in the field of advertising. His book Confessions of an Advertising Man is a best seller that has been translated into 14 different languages and has sold over a million copies worldwide. David Ogilvy is probably the most famous copywriter of all time. He is responsible for creating one of the largest and most successful advertising agencies, Ogilvy and Mather, as well as some of the world's most successful advertising campaigns.

Born 23 June, 1911 in West Horsley England to an Irish mother and a Scottish father, David Ogilvy received a scholarship to Oxford but "made a botch" of it as he confesses in Confessions of an Advertising Man. As a young man, David Ogilvy had no clear direction and dabbled as a chef in Paris, a social worker on the streets of Edinburgh, an assistant in the British Intelligence, and a farmer in a Pennsylvania Amish community. He also sold stoves door-to-door and worked with the famous Dr. George Gallup as a research associate.

He ended up, finally, as an advertising executive on Madison Avenue. David Ogilvy worked as an advertising copywriter before going on to own his own agency. He was one of the few marketing "creatives" to remember that advertising's purpose is not to merely entertain, but to sell. David Ogilvy said about advertising: "The temptation to entertain instead of selling is contagious."

David Ogilvy stressed that the proper way to sell a product through advertising is to advise the consumer of what the product's benefit to him or her is. For example, his Dove soap campaign emphasized that Dove "Creams Your Skin While You Wash," to show the benefit of Dove moisturizing the skin, and the ads had a huge response rate.

Interestingly, David Ogilvy insisted on using all of the products he wrote about. As he notes in Confessions of an Advertising Man "At breakfast I drink Maxwell House coffee or Tetley Tea, and eat two slices of Pepperidge Farm toast. I wash with Dove, deodorize with Ban, and light my pipe with a Zippo lighter." David Ogilvy believed that a copywriter should believe in the product as well as know and understand the product.

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