Ogilvy on Advertising


224 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-471-79819-3





Reviewed by Lee J. McKenna


Described alternately as the “pope” and the “king” of advertising, David Ogilvy bears the responsibilities of an industry leader when he endeavours to reveal that industry to the public. His earlier work, Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963), dealt with the man set in the context of advertising as a good and humourous way to earn a living. In this more serious, almost textbook, approach, the man described as a creative genius of the field concentrates on what “sells.”

There is a tension in the world of advertising caused by two paradoxical objectives — creativity and sales. The industry itself funds award after award to honour creatively beautiful, emotional, or clever ads and commercials. However, their objective in being created was to sell a product — and no one even judges an ad on the basis of its success as a selling tool. With this schizoid philosophy at its core, the business of advertising is ripe for Ogilvy’s book. We could easily subtitle the effort “Selling Tips from the Man Who Invented Creativity.” Ogilvy knows how to combine the goals; he sums up this knowledge when he says, of one of the ads, “I want you to find it so interesting you buy the product.”

As mentioned, the textbook approach is prevalent, with chapter headings like “Jobs in advertising — and how to get them” and “How to make TV commercials that sell.” This makes the book useful to both the layman and the professional and it can be read piecemeal. However, a cover-to-cover examination is warranted by anyone who was ever delighted or enraged by the interruptions to his favourite programming.


Ogilvy, David, “Ogilvy on Advertising,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36752.