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The 7 Commandments of Advertising According to David Ogilvy

October 25, 2021

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Flat layout of digital advertising brochures and phone with financial diagram

Described as “The Father of Advertising” and “The Original Mad Man,” David Ogilvy is undoubtedly one of the marketing greats of any generation. As the founder of the advertising and marketing firm Ogilvy & Mather, David received too many accolades to count during his career.
Many of his strategies still hold true for today’s marketers. Let’s unpack his seven commandments of advertising.

1 Go Big or Don’t Bother

Ogilvy states that he had around 20 big ideas during his entire career. Identifying those big ideas requires plenty of research. Don’t bother with creating copy unless you have a big idea about the content.

2 Do Your Research

While Ogilvy was working for the Gallup Marketing Firm, he learned that marketers need to research the needs of their prospects and answer them with content that sells the product or service. Remember these three principles when writing your content.

  • Who are you writing it for?
  • How does the prospect think when making decisions?
  • What are the prospect’s needs?

3 Don’t Talk down to Prospects

Ogilvy states that people don’t want fancy words and complicated explanations. They are not idiots, and they want you to treat them as intelligent. Give the prospect the reason to buy without dancing around the subject ñ always be closing.

4 The Headline Should be 80%

The headline is the most important aspect of the advert, and it’s what the prospect focuses on the most. Ogilvy stated that if you get the headline right, it’s 80% of the work.

5 Focus on Making the Sale

Marketers love getting creative, and they sometimes forget they are selling, not telling. People don’t have much time in the modern world, and they want you to get to the point and convince them why they need the product or service.

6 What Is the Why?

After hooking the reader with the headline, the next task is to uncover the “why” that makes the prospect pull the buying trigger. Your job as a marketer is to answer the following.

  • Why is the product important for the prospect?
  • Why is the product a good deal?
  • Why should the prospect be interested in the product?
  • Why should they buy it from you?
  • Why buy the product now rather than wait?
  • Why should the prospect trust your company or brand?

7 Copy Is Critical ñ Treat It As Such

For too many marketing agencies, the copy is nothing more than an afterthought. They hire inexperienced copywriters that don’t know what they’re doing and then wonder why their campaigns don’t bring them the expected result.

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