David Ogilvy – His Famous Quotes III
David Ogilvy on Values in Communication:
“Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”
Particularly in an industry that has too often been seen as the masters of “spin”, or the half-truths, David was a standard bearer of the belief that trust and transparency are the basis of good business. In his inimitable way, David brought this belief from lofty heights right down the level of everyday life and family in the quote above. In a related, famous quip, David once said, “the consumer is not a moron; she is your wife.” Truths are indeed best told simply.
David always maintained the pulse of reality, and even decades before “transparency” became as big an issue as it is today, fuelled by the Internet and social media, David Ogilvy instinctively understood what a fundamental topic it is for consumers. Were he still alive today, I believe David would be a big proponent of the better aspects of social media in keeping companies – and people – honest in their public claims.
David’s belief in the truth was more than just a moral issue. Fundamentally, he believed that the truth was interesting – and the best way to sell. For this reason, he loved to tell the truth in detail – to accentuate the interesting gems of reality. David once quipped that “you can’t bore people into buying your product”. For him, the interest was in knowing the truly interesting tale of the truth. Again, a great lesson for modern times when jaded consumers have come to suspect most companies’ motives and intentions.
Henry David Thoreau once said, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” David’s many sayings came from years of experience at the coal face of creating great advertising, and leading numerous men and women in the agency. So, while many of David’s famous quotes have the ring of well-honed copy, they were in fact the distillation of long experience and deep wisdom earned from his days as a door-to-door salesman of Aga cookers in Scotland through to his time as the CEO of one of the world’s leading advertising agencies. It was David’s life that inspired people around him; he truly stood up to live before he sat down to write. And his quotes live on today as a reminder of the man he was, and the beliefs that he held so strongly and share unabashedly with others. I hope we don’t forget or ignore the saliency of his words today.
President and Representative Director
Ogilvy & Mather Japan