David Ogilvy is typically hailed as the ‘father of advertising’. Although it always seemed to me that his forte was direct marketing.
In any case, content marketers can learn a lot from Mr. Ogilvy. He was a pioneer of information-rich, soft sell ads that didn’t insult people’s intelligence. For example, he produced “The Guinness Guide to Oysters” in 1951 – an early form of what today we call native advertising.
We can study Ogilvy’s campaigns to learn how to persuade prospective customers, influence readers and create memorable, evergreen content. But he also has plenty to teach us about productivity, branding, research, ambition—and writing.
On Sept. 7, 1982, Ogilvy sent the following internal memo, titled “How to Write,” to all his employees:
“The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well. Woolly-minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches. Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:
- Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
- Write the way you talk. Naturally.
- Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
- Never use jargon words like ‘reconceptualize,’ ‘demassification,’ ‘attitudinally,’ ‘judgmentally.’ They are hallmarks of pretense.
- Never write more than two pages on any subject.
- Check your quotations.
- Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.
- If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
- Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal-clear what you want the recipient to do.
- If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.”