Investor’s Business Daily: Professor Roger Beahm Discusses Ad Man David Oglivy’s Legacy

11.28.2012 Article, Faculty News

David Ogilvy Built An Empire And Changed The Ad Game
Reposted from Investor's Business Daily
In 1951 a Maine shirt firm with a tiny budget hired David Ogilvy to launch a national ad campaign.

On his way to the photo shoot, the British-born college dropout stopped at a drugstore and bought a black $1 eye patch.

Several months later, a New Yorker magazine ad showed a white-haired, debonair-looking man with a patch over his right eye. Underneath the photo was the line, "The man in the Hathaway shirt."

Ogilvy had written one of the most famous lines in 20th century American advertising.

In the process, he had launched his career into the stratosphere.

In the next five decades, the tall, elegant Scotsman built Ogilvy & Mather into one of the world's biggest ad agencies, created some of advertising's most memorable icons and helped boost a creative revolution that changed the American marketing landscape in the 1960s.

In Good Company
A top wordsmith and businessman, Ogilvy landed accounts with IBM (IBM), Shell Oil (RDSA), American Express (AXP) and Sears (SHLD), wrote a seminal book on the ad business and was called by many "The Father of Modern Advertising.''

"Ogilvy was definitely one of the pioneers, one of the original Mad men who led the charge," Greg Wagner, a University of Denver Daniels School of Business marketing lecturer, told IBD. "Before the creative revolution, advertising was a very hard sell. The commercials would almost irritate you, pounding and pounding away at the same point.

"Ogilvy and others said, 'You can sell with cool and creative. You can sell by being funny, by being ironic, by charm.' … Yet Ogilvy not only had a reputation for being very creative; his work sold. When you have big, major brands, you have to sell the brand, you have to move the needle, not only on brand awareness, but with market share and sales results. His work always did that because his work was enduring. The Hathaway shirt guy was around for years.''

Ogilvy (1911-99) was born in West Horsley, England, the youngest child of John and Dorothy Ogilvy. His father was a stockbroker, his grandfather a merchant banker. After attending a public school in Edinburgh, Scotland, he won a scholarship to study modern history at the University of Oxford.

But after failing his exams, he dropped out of school, moved to Paris and found a job as a cook.

After returning to England, he peddled stoves to hotels and restaurants. He proved to be a top salesman, setting him for even bigger stuff when he wrote a manual on how to sell stoves.

Ogilvy's ad: At 60 mph "the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock."
Forbes magazine called it one of the best sales manuals ever written. Mather & Crowther was so impressed, it hired him to write copy.

In 1938 he moved to America, where he worked in Hollywood for George Gallup, the pollster. After World War II broke out in Europe the next year, he helped British intelligence in the U.S.
With the war ending in 1945, Ogilvy and his wife moved to Pennsylvania's Lancaster County to try his hand at tobacco farming. If that was a drastic leap, he saw it this way: "Develop your eccentricities when you are young. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're going gaga."

In 1948, at age 38, Ogilvy started an advertising agency in New York with "no credentials, no clients and only $6,000 in the bank,'' he said.

Three years later he was one of the most famous copywriters in America, thanks to the Hathaway ad. "What David did was create characters that were classy and very cool — it was this imagery of coolness that was associated with the product,'' said Wagner, who served at creative director at D'Arcy and Leo Burnett offices in St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit and Denver. "The Hathaway shirt guy looked like James Bond. It was a breakthrough.''

So was Cmdr. Whitehead, the dignified, bearded Brit that Ogilvy created to introduce Schweppes tonic water to America. The ad ran 18 years and was another example of Ogilvy's knack for finding a character to spark an iconic brand.

Whitehead in reality was a Schweppes board member.

The model in the Hathaway shirt ad was a Russian baron.

"He was very simply about big ideas," Wagner said. "You've got to start with a great idea. Then you build from there. One time I read a quote of his: 'Blaze new trails. Try to make advertising history.' His whole point was that no matter what assignment you're on, try to hit a home run, swing for the fences, don't hold back.''

Ogilvy aimed for the long ball with a print campaign he created for Rolls-Royce in 1959. Under a photograph of the luxury British car, he wrote one of the slickest lines in car advertising history:
"At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.''

Still impressed is Roger Beahm, professor of marketing at Wake Forest University.

"That was truly provocative,'' he said. "Talking about noise at all with a Rolls-Royce is something that grabs your attention. Then you start thinking about it. The intrigue comes from the provocative nature of the ad. That's his signature. It ran counter to the way people thought. That's what creative thinking is designed to do. It's designed to grab your attention."

Ogilvy also piqued buyers' interest with "only Dove is one-quarter moisture cream" — a campaign that helped make it the highest-selling soap in America.

"Ogilvy had it right when he said the first key decision you have to make is how you position your product,'' Beahm said. "Are you going to position Dove as a soap or as a cleansing bar? Dove drove to very high share levels because of that unique positioning (as a cleansing bar). It's how people position brands in their mind that makes the difference. Ogilvy understood that.''

Click here to continue reading the story in Investor's Business Daily.