David Ogilvy’s Guide To Writing Ads Explained Part 8

Element #8 is controversial. Your clients will hate you if you ignore their pleas and apply this rule to their copy.

They might feel insulted, their ego may be hurt, and their sense of worth crushed.

But you’ll win in the end as they watch their sales increase and you become the person whose judgment they’ll never question again.

In the early 1990s I won my first award. It was for some accounting software I’d written called Prophet.

It helped launch a new computer in New Zealand (the Acorn A4000) as a result of the publicity I got from the award.

As you can imagine, I pimped that accolade like there was no tomorrow. It was “Award Winning” this and “Award Winning” that even after all the cows had come home and were safely tucked up in their shed.

I won a whole bunch more over the following two decades, my software was even nominated for three Apple Awards in the UK.

On the back of that success, every ad we produced had the same message “Award Winning” stamped all over it. We had it printed on the boxes too. Damn I was proud of my success.

I’d bought myself a smart ‘black tie’ suit complete with those fancy shiny ribbons down each leg and cummerbund for the waist. What a dude.

I was invited to various VIP functions here and there and duly showed up wherever needed. And the company slowly went downhill.

None of these awards helped our users. It was all about me, me, and of course me.

Next time a client wants you to tell their users how great THEY are, tell them it’s the fastest way to bankruptcy. Tell them your reputation depends solely on results not accolades. Tell them you will make them twice as much money if they let you do your thing.

And tell them they could offer you all the money in the world to shout about how great they are in their ads, but you still won’t do it (leave all that stuff to their PR department).

The point of an ad is to SELL a product, not the company, what the company does, or why the company is great (branding geniuses do that).

Instead, focus your energy on what the audience needs and the benefit they’ll get when their problems are solved with the product you’re advertising.

PS. Don’t get me wrong here. Winning an award is a major achievement. But if that’s all we’ve got, then it’s nothing. A good PR person will write a strong story about how and why that award was won and how it has affected x number of people, and a branding genius will spin it into something the audience cares about.



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