The Wisdom of David Ogilvy

At an event in Manila sponsored by Ogilvy & Mather, I received as a gift D.O.: The unpublished papers of David Ogilvy—a selection of his writings from the files of his partners. I am a longtime fan of Ogilvy, and found it to be a sterling gift. Here are a few of the gems I unearthed:

On what matters to Clients:

It is not enough for an agency to be respected for its professional competence. Indeed, there isn’t much to choose between the competence of big agencies. What so often makes the difference is the character of the men and women who represent the agency at the top level, with clients and the business community. If they are respected as admirable people, the agency gets business—whether from present clients or prospective ones.

From a summation of Ogilvy & Mather’s “corporate culture”:

A Nice Place to Work

Some of our people spend their entire working lives in our agency. We do our damnedest to make it a happy experience. I put this first, believing that superior service to our clients, and profits for our stockholders, depend on it. …

[TP: note the extraordinary “put this first.”]

More from D.O.’s summation of Ogilvy & Mather’s “corporate culture”:

Raise your sights!
Blaze new trails!
Compete with the immortals!

[TP: characteristically soaring aspirations from D.O.]

On the quality of people O & M seeks:

Wanted by Ogilvy & Mather International

Trumpeter Swans

[TP: Do your HR folks use language like this? FYI, the department store chain Nordstrom does use similar language regarding every hire for even the most mundane slots.]

On leaders:

I believe that it is more important for a leader to be trained in psychiatry than cybernetics. The head of a big company recently said to me, ‘I am no longer a Chairman. I have had to become a psychiatric nurse.’ Today’s executive is under pressure unknown to the last generation.

[TP: If only we would get this!]

On general behavior:

Never send a letter on the day you write it.

[TP: If only we would apply this standard to email!!]

Quite a haul, eh?