Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ogilvy on Advertising

I've been wanting to get up-to-speed on online advertising and how it works. But I figure before I do that I should learn a thing or two about advertising. Based on the suggestion of my friend and classmate Nate Jaffee (a marketing genius), I'm starting with one of the basics - David Ogilvy of Ogilvy & Mather. He wrote a book, published in 1985, called Ogilvy on Advertising. The following are my notes from reading the book - apologies if they seem terse ... it's how the book is written and saves me time in writing up this post.
"Consumers still buy products whose advertising promises them value for money, beauty, nutrition, relief from suffering, social status and so on. All over the world."

How to Produce Advertising that Sells

Do your homework - learn about the product, what kind of advertising your competitors are doing and how successful they are with it, learn about your consumers (how they think about your product, what language they use, what attributes are important to them)

Brand image - everything you project about your product is contributing to its personality -- name, packaging, price, style of ads, nature of product itself. Should remain consistent and be reinforced by ads over many years.

Big ideas - do a lot of research and then let your unconscious take over. Tests for a big idea: 1) Did it make me gasp when I first saw it? 2) Do I wish I had thought of it myself? 3) Is it unique? 4) Does it fit the strategy to perfection? 5) Could it be used for 30 years?

Make the product the hero - there are no dull products, only dull writers. Selling 'parity' products, all you can hope to do is explain the virtues more persuavively than your competitors. The concept of "positively good" - don't try to show that your product is better - just say what's good about your product.

Repeat your winners - Don't throw away ads that are working. Keep running them until they don't work anymore.

Pursuit of knowledge - its really important to know your craft and to do research. What works and what doesn't. And then apply and measure the results of those.

The cult of 'creativity' - 'If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative'. "Mozart said, 'I have never made the slightest effort to compose anything original." Don't worry about being too original. Focus on producing results.

Jobs in Advertising

Ogilvy touches on copywriters, art directors, account executives, researchers (including gripes about how they take so long, seek perfection, and use pretentious jargon), media, CEO, and creative directors. An interesting suggestion on how to choose your job - "In the words of the Scottish proverb, 'Be happy while you're living, for you're a long time dead'."

How to Run an Advertising Agency

Great quote about how to hire people:
"When someone is made head of an office in the Ogilvy & Mather chain, I send him a Matrioshka doll from Gorky. If he has the curiosity to open it, and keep opening it until he comes to the inside of the smallest doll, he finds this message: If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants."

Print Advertising

Headlines - they promise the reader a benefit, contain news, contain helpful information, include the brand name, help flag down your target audience, ten word headlines sells more than short headlines, specifics better than generalities, quotes increases recall, include city names in local advertisements, aren't tricky or obscure,.

Illustrations - have "story appeal" (arouse the reader's curiosity - 'What goes on here?', then reads your copy to find out), show the package, illustrate the end-result (e.g. before and after)

Body copy - average readership of body copy is less than 5%. Short sentences and paragraphs, write in form of a story, avoid analogies (they confuse people), avoid superlatives (brag and boast), use testimonials (increases credibility), avoid celebrities (they increase recall, but not of your product), include the price (get the consumer to consider the purchase)

Layouts and Typography - Order should be illustration, then headline, then copy. Use serif fonts, three columns that are around 40 characters wide, every photograph should have a caption (more people read captions than body copy), start the copy with drop-initials, avoid two page layouts (no benefit), 11-pt font, don't square-up paragraphs, limit your opening paragraph to 11 words max.

TV Commercials

Success is measured by changes in brand preference -- not recall. There is not a strong correlation between recall and changes in brand preference. And brand preference leads to increases in purchase behavior, so focus on that.

10 kinds of commercials that increase brand preference:
  1. Humor - difficult to write funny commercials though
  2. Slice of life - one actor argues with another about the merits of the product until the doubter is converted (corny, but effective)
  3. Testimonials - loyal users testifying to the virtues of your product - especially when they don't know they're being filmed.
  4. Demonstrations - show how well your product performs. Avoid comparing your product to your competitors as its confusing to viewers and less believable.
  5. Problem solution - show the problem and then how your product solves it.
  6. Talking heads - pitchman extols the virtues of your product. Although considered non-creative, they are quite effective.
  7. Characters - character becomes the living symbol of your product.
  8. Reason why - provide a rational reason to buy your product
  9. News - new product launches and the like. You can also create news by advertising new ways to use your product.
  10. Emotion - nostalgia, charm, sentimantality. But always include a rational excuse to justify the emotional decisions.
Radio Commercials

No one really knows what makes effective radio ads. But here are four positive factors: 1) identify your brand early in the commercial, 2) identify it often, 3) promise the listener a benefit early in the commercial, 4) repeat it often.

Advertising Corporations and B2B Sales

Nothing that notable here. Basically, corporate advertising needs to be done over long periods of time in a consistent way. Similar to brand building. And B2B ads follows similar best practices to B2C ads.

Direct Mail & Direct Response

The big thing that direct mail allows you to do is to test and measure very accurately - down to the dollar spent. Most important things to test are positioning, pricing, terms of payment, premiums, and mailing format. Best times for TV commercials are early morning, late evening and weekends and months of January, February, and March are the most profitable months.

Miracles of Research

I thought this quote summed up this topic pretty well:
"I admit that research is often misused by agencies and their clients. They have a way of using it to prove they are right. They use research as a drunkard uses a lamppost - not for illumination but for support. On the whole, however, research can be of incalculable help in producing more effective advertising."

Six Giants Who Invented Modern Advertising

This list only includes admen that were deceased as of the writing of the book. But here they are:
  • Albert Lasker (Lord & Thomas)
  • Stanley Resor
  • Raymond Rubicam (of Young & Rubicam fame)
  • Leo Burnett (of the "Chicago-style", "There is an inherent drama in every product. Our No. 1 job is to dig for it and capitalize on it")
  • Claude C. Hopkins (invented test marketing, sampling by coupon, copy research; wrote the book Scientific Advertising)
  • Bill Bernbach -- great quote about why advertisers need to understand human nature:
"Human nature hasn't changed for a billion years. It won't even vary in the next billion years. Only the superficial things have changed. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man - what compulsions drive him, what instincts dominate his every action, even though his language too often camouflages what really motivates him. For if you know these things about a man, you can touch him at the core of his being. One thing is unchangingly sure. The creative man with an insight into human nature, with the artistry to touch and move people will succeed. Without them he will fail".

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