Mad reader

Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy
Perhaps my purest example of “Reading Madly”—
This here book was mentioned on an episode of Mad Men (during Season 3, methinks) because it was published in 1963 and got all the ad guys all talking. So we got here a book from the actual time period, mentioned on the actual show.
David Ogilvy is a pretty darn entertaining writer. Of course, he is: He’s an ad man, so you’d expect that he’d grab your attention and hold it for at least a little while, right?
The book presents itself as a primer on how to write copy, how to build great campaigns, etc., but it’s got the word “Confessions” in its title, so you know it’s more than a dull old guidebook. Ogilvy seems like a larger-than-life character at the helm of one of the big agencies, and he’s got stories to tell. Nothing scandalous or shocking, but there are some great advertising anecdotes here.
And some of his sentences are just plain fun to read. Here are two examples that made me smile:
“But however well-documented our presentation may be, however thoroughly our planners have assessed the marketing realities, and however brilliantly our copywriters have done their work, horrible things can happen at The Presentation.” (p. 67)
(I’m a morbid thing. It’s not funny that something horrible would happen, but still I grin.)
And then there’s this:
“Don’t sing your selling message. Selling is a serious business. How would you react if you went into a Sears store to buy a frying pan and the salesman starting singing jingles at you?” (p. 133)
OK, that second one there is just plain hilarious. It makes a shy person positively recoil to think of being approached by a singing salesman. I’d be outta there so fast…
Reading this book left me with a lot of questions, such as:
How many of these precepts are still considered useful in advertising?
Do the Mad Men writers use this book as a source of ideas for the show?
Ain’t it intriguing that a TV show caused me to read a book I never would’ve picked up otherwise–and liked so much?

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Reader, librarian, & happy little geek

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