Lessons From The Original Mad Man


Don Draper may be the “Mad Man” that most people are familiar with. But before Don Draper came to life on our TV screens in 2007, there was David Ogilvy, a real life “Mad Man” who’s often described as the father of advertising. In 1962, when Ogilvy was 51, Time Magazine called him “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry”.

Ogilvy was born in West Horsley, England in 1911 and by the time he died in 1999, he had built a massive advertising empire. His Ogilvy Group was bought over by the WPP Group in 1989 for a staggering US$864 million!

His belief was that advertising served to sell and that successful advertising is based on information about the customer. Ogilvy felt that they should always be treated as being intelligent. One of my favourite quotes from him is, “The consumer is not a moron, she’s your wife”!

When Ogilvy was 71, he wrote the following internal memo to his employees, titled “How to Write”. These 10 simple tips remain just as useful and relevant today, as when he first wrote this in 1982. We can all learn much from this original and legendary Mad Man.

The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

  1. Read the Roman – Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never use jargon words like ‘reconceptualize,’ ‘demassification,’ ‘attitudinally,’ ‘judgmentally.’ They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  6. Check your quotations.
  7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.
  8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal-clear what you want the recipient to do.
  10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

Is your business hampered by poor editorial copy? Let the content and copy experts show you how you can communicate effectively to increase sales!