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David Oglivy, advertising man

"The consumer is not a moron, she's your wife." These are words to live by for the ad men at Madison Avenue agency Ogilvy, Benson and Mather, guided by their founder, David Ogilvy. Since his humble start selling ovens door to door in Scotland, Ogilvy has reached the top of the ad game. In this 1964 interview from CBC-TV's Take 30, Ogilvy explains why he wrote his new book Confessions of an Advertising Man and rues the pitfalls in trying to pitch deodorant.
• David Ogilvy was born in England in 1911. He was working as a chef in Paris when his older brother, a manager at the London ad agency Mather & Crowther, recruited him to sell Aga brand cookers (coal-burning ovens) door to door. A 1935 manual Ogilvy wrote on the subject, The Theory and Practice of Selling the Aga Cooker, has been called "probably the best sales manual ever written."
  • After leaving for the United States in 1938, Ogilvy found work with the polling firm Gallup. During the Second World War he worked for British intelligence, but declined further opportunities in the field after the war to pursue farming in Pennsylvania.

• In 1948, Ogilvy (with backing from Mather & Crowther and another agency, S.H. Benson, in the U.K.) founded his own agency in New York City with a staff of two.

• In November 1964 Ogilvy's agency, Ogilvy, Benson and Mather, merged with Mather & Crowther to form a new agency, Ogilvy & Mather. The new company was to have 11 offices around the world, including one in Toronto. As of 2010 the company has offices in 169 cities.

• David Ogilvy retired in 1973, came out of retirement for a period in the 1980s, and died in 1999 at his estate in France.

Confessions of an Advertising Man chronicled Ogilvy's first 15 years in the business. It was translated into 14 languages and sold one million copies. In Season 3 of the U.S. television series Mad Men, set in the advertising business in the 1960s, two characters discuss Ogilvy's book:
Sterling: Ogilvy wrote a book. I got the galleys. They want a quote or something. Advertising is already up there with lawyers as the most reviled, this is not going to help.
Draper: It'll help him.
Sterling: It's called "Confessions of an Ad Man."
Draper: I like the title.
Sterling: Please. It's the book everybody writes. Only he got it published. It should be called "1,000 Reasons I'm So Great."

Medium: Television
Program: Take 30
Broadcast Date: Jan. 23, 1964
Guest(s): David Ogilvy
Host: Anna Cameron
Duration: 10:42

Last updated: January 15, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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