David Ogilvy’s Guide To Writing Ads Explained Part 32

“The more you tell, the more you sell” – I have no idea who said that, but David Ogilvy used this quote in element 32 of his guide to advertising.

He had to of course. It forms part of his 1909 word ad, whose purpose was threefold: 1) build his brand, 2) get new clients, and 3) increase confidence with his existing clients (i.e., sell more to more people, more of the time).

And as with all things Ogilvy, he knew that hyperbole on its own was no good. It must be supported with evidence.

But evidence doesn’t have to be hard evidence. Just saying it is often enough, and so he did, like this:

“Readership falls off rapidly after fifty words, but drops very little between fifty and five hundred words. (This page contains 1909 words, and YOU are reading it)”.

This angle has been used an infinite number of times by copywriters ever since (“if you’ve read this far…”).

Ogilvy was right of course, with one caveat: The length of copy is irrelevant. It’s whether it’s interesting that matters.

So in that spirit I’ll end this episode with this famous quote from Elmore Leonard:

“My most important piece of advice to all you would-be writers: When you write, try to leave out all the parts readers skip.”

PS. As I’ve been going through Ogilvy’s famous 1960s ad for this series, I purposely didn’t read it in advance. Instead I’ve taken each element one day at a time. That meant my estimate of 2000+ words in earlier elements was flawed. Exaggeration is not necessary. Mea culpa [NOTE: apologies for ignoring George Orwell’s sound advice – never use foreign words (eg. mea culpa) – or for that matter, words that not everyone understands].

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