David Ogilvy’s Guide To Writing Ads Explained Part 23

Sometimes it pays to play piggy in the middle. To avoid controversy. To be a yes/no/whatever type of person – at least that’s what element 23 of David Ogilvy’s ad suggests.

This is odd considering most of the rest of his ad is so certain of itself. So what exactly is element 23?

It’s this: “prefer factual over emotional – except we tried emotional over factual and made it successful too”.

I guess he’s bragging that whilst most conservative minded people might prefer ads that are factual, his awesome agency can use emotion in ads just as well. What’s not to like!

In my first software company (Apricote – back in the mid 1980s and most of the 1990s) I stuck to factual copy (“Here are the latest features…”). It worked just fine and the company lasted 14 years until the dot com bubble arrived.

In 1998 I morphed the business into Accountz and it went forward with a new remit – get everyone’s attention no matter what the cost. It worked too, and we expanded fast (but mostly into debt – a couple of million, we did get great market penetration in the UK, but the cloud came at more or less the same time and rained on our parade).

After I retired from that business in 2012, I’d started to realise the importance of copy (it took me 33 years to understand that one simple fact – I’m a slow learner).

The “Science of Copywriting” happened because of everything I’d ever written and learned in business. The irony is that science is all about facts, whereas copy is all about emotion (this is what Ogilvy was really alluding to in his ad – he knew the executives he was after wanted “sensible”, but he was going to make damn sure he converted them to emotion by the end of his epic ad – using “facts”).

The bottom line is this: unless we can raise our audience’s inherent desire, very little will happen, and the only way to do that is by evoking emotion. So our copy must move people from whatever state they’re in, to a different, positive, “must buy” state.

However, without at least some corroborative facts thrown in (such as proof the thing we’re selling actually works), no one (except the highly gullible) will believe us.

So Ogilvy had it right all along – he used emotion in element 23 to sell us facts.

PS. Part of the idea of this particular post is to increase the desire to want to read Ogilvy’s ad. If you feel that pull, gimme a yes in the comments.

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