Applying Ogilvy’s Philosophy to Content Creation

 In Advertising, Branding, Content Creation, Marketing

Before Mad Man Don Draper, there was David Ogilvy, known as The Father of Advertising, who essentially drew the road map to modern content marketing.

Born in England in 1911, Ogilvy began hawking AGA stoves in 1932, eventually penning The Theory and Practice of Selling the AGA Cooker, which has since been named by Fortune “the finest sales instruction manual ever written.”

After a stint at Mather & Crowther, a London ad agency, he relocated to New York where he founded, Ogilvy & Mather in 1948. The agency’s most famous taglines include “at 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock,” and “only Dove is one-quarter moisturizing cream.”

Ogilvy, who famously decried sexism in advertising stating “the customer is not a moron, she’s your wife,” was guided by four basic marketing principles:

Creative Brilliance

Ogilvy believed in the big ideaL, defined in two parts:

The first concerns Cultural Tension: to be relevant and important, brands need a point of view on the big and small topics of the day.

The second part is the brand’s Best Self: to be valid, a brand must have some authority to be able to hold its point of view.

In essence, your content should always reflect your time and place. A cultural connection will engage your audience and your language should elevate the reader. By addressing your readers directly and honestly, you will keep them interested. Also, confidence is key. Authoritative content will define your brand as trustworthy and valuable.


Ogilvy’s official title at his firm was Research Director. He believed that advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.

Content writers should never mistake belief for fact. Taking ideas at face value may seem efficient but your lack of study will come back to haunt you. Today, all information lives perpetually online. Putting forth faulty data will inevitably discredit a brand and the content creator themselves.

Actual Results for Clients

Ogilvy believed that in the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. For content, creativity is a must, yet if your clients’ bottom line isn’t positively impacted, artistic flourish is of no consequence.

Not that the hard sell is the way to go, however your sales objectives should be weaved into your content. Hiring a content creator is not a charitable contribution. Clients expect results that translate into revenue.

Professional Discipline

Another guiding mantra of Ogilvy’s was the pursuit of excellence is less profitable than the pursuit of bigness, but it can be more satisfying. He preferred the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance.

“Preparation is vital to successful content creation. Start to finish discipline endows content with weight and strength. A great opening paragraph is worthless if a story ends without conviction. Thus, writers must be focused in their approach, keeping the eyes on the prize.”

Ogilvy was arguably as good a teacher as he was an ad man. His philosophy endures decades after he articulated its basic principles. Content creators will undoubtedly enhance their writing power by applying it to their work. As Ogilvy implored his team: “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.”

David Ogilvy’s philosophy is collected in his books, Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963), Blood, Brains and Beer (1978), and Ogilvy on Advertising (1983).

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