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Confessions of an Advertising Man

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  4,291 ratings  ·  317 reviews
David Ogilvy was an advertising genius. At the age of 37, he founded the New York-based agency that later merged to form the international company known as Ogilvy & Mather. Regarded as the father of modern advertising, Ogilvy was responsible for some of the most memorable advertising campaigns ever created. Confessions of an Advertising Man is the distillation of all the O ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 1st 2004 by Southbank Publishing (first published 1963)
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This is one long, but entertaining, advert for Ogilvy's ad agency that's driven forward by a fantastic mixture of short paragraphs (many with just two sentences) and anecdotes. The first time reading it, I didn't really realise quite how relentless this effect was, until I found myself turning the last page.

Of course the business of keeping paragraphs short is one of the many pieces of advice that he gives in the book.

Ogilvy tells you how he runs his agency, how he gets his clients, how he creat
Jul 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: New to Advertising, Interested in Advertising, Copywriters
Having always been fascinated by advertising, this book was on my list of must buy. A quick browse at, and I knew I just must have it. So why not more than 3 stars?

This was a book from a genius in the advertising field. The topics, or tips, or whatever you want to call them, were supposed to be, in my opinion, ageless. Some are. How to be the leading man in an agency, how to behave with clients to get accounts (sometimes), etc... Yet, a lot is typical to the time of writing, and not s
May 16, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mad Men this ain’t.

A vainglorious book which glides through all the successes of David Ogilvy’s career (until this book’s 1963 publication) and shows the wonderful lessons there are to be learned. Inevitably dated and not only because advertising has moved on, few people these days write business books assuming an all male audience and at points getting the readers to ponder what their wives may think.

The truly frustrating thing is that there is an interesting story buried here, how did a Brit w
Nov 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
I wish I had read this book ten years ago. Ha.

Much of it is as spot-on now as it was then. I love the prologue from the 80's where he makes two small corrections to the book, as if everything else is totally un-changed. I wish David Ogilvy had lived in the internet times. I would love to know what the thought about things.

If you're in advertising, read this book. Balance it out with a book about Bill Bernbach. Ignore some of his cantankerous commentary about selling and blocked out type if you
Sep 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
The Donald Trump of advertising, both in success and ego.
Joana ♡
Aug 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Ogilvy was a genius.

This was a book I read for my internship and I honestly can’t figure out why no professor recommend it to us in class. I think it’s a very insightful read if you’re entering/interested in the field.

Ogilvy reminded me why I decided to pursue advertising.
Extremely well written, Ogilvy was truly a remarkable creature. He was also, probably, a prick and a megalomaniac. Some things written in this book are outdated but I would still advise anybody that wants to start a career in advertising to read it.
Alan Kercinik
Jun 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Full disclosure: I work at Ogilvy. Be that as it may, this is a book well worth reading, if only because so much of it is relevant today, if you know where to look.

This is a man who was so out in front of authenticity, story-mining and storytelling, it's not even funny. Read his Rolls Royce ad to find out how to mine for content hooks. Look at his Hathaway shirt ads to find out how to create a character that could be a brand's social voice. And read his stories about counseling clients to find o
Satyam Sai
Feb 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
The reason I’ve always been interested in advertising despite the silly consumerist culture it so strongly promotes, is because I find an amusement in the way the lies are told, a method in which truth is fabricated and an immensely satisfying pleasure in the art that is created.

As of learning, there can be two options before you:
One – observe the advertisements around you. (It's abundant to the point of nausea!)
Two – Read this book.
Not exactly equivalent choices but if you are a true Tarantin
Jul 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is fascinating on many levels. First, that parts of it are even still relevant today as it laments about the lack of research on this crazy new medium called 'television' and warns against food commercials because they look so unappealing in black and white. Second, that Ogilvy makes advertising look like a noble profession, and as the way he practiced it, it was noble indeed. He did not believe in hawking products that he didn't believe in. He did not think of the 'consumer' as some r ...more
Anita Atherton
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
Never before have I so wanted to throw a book across the room whilst reading it. For someone who claims to love simplicity of language or things simply put, at one stage I thought he was actually making words up. But as a self anointed genius - why wouldn't he be? Emoluments? Odium? Pettifoggers? Suzerainty? Wanker.
I know it was 1962, but apart from a couple of little gems within, the work of this outdated, egotistical, misogynist sociopath needs to be locked in a time capsule and shot into oute
Oct 03, 2007 rated it liked it
I want to love this, because I'm supposed to, but it's really starting to get a little dated. There are a few essential guidelines here about being an honest, forthright businessperson, but the culture of the consumer has changed so radically in the 50 years since this book was published that the rest of it is sometimes hard to find an application for. Still, Ogilvy's personality makes it a fun read, and it will always be essential reading if you're in the advertising business. ...more
Mar 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-recommend
David Ogilvy is, of course, a classic and a class act. Since advertising is my field, I took some practical pointers from this book, and also heard some of my own instincts confirmed (you have to love your clients like family, buy their products, etc.). But I think someone not in the industry would get something out of this as well. He was 'the man' during the great generation of ad men, which was an exciting and iconic time in our American culture. ...more
Ryan Chapman
Aug 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
When my coworkers saw this on my desk, two of them separately noted surprise I hadn't already read it.

It's certainly insightful, and a nice (accidental) companion piece to my current Mad Men adoration. While the tone is just a little too self-congratulatory, Ogilvy fills his text to the brim with the sort of anecdotes and lists of rules you'd want in such a book. Highly recommended for anyone in love with/critical of American capitalism!
Serge Stefoglo
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Incredible read with insight into the mind of a marketer that is relevant even today. If you do any kind of marketing, you are going to want to get this book.
Sean Goh
Dec 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A candid, down to earth how-to-do quality business with integrity and honesty.

It was inspiring to work under a supreme master.

Today I praise my staff as rarely as Picard praised his chefs, in the hope that they too will appreciate it more than a steady gush of appreciation.

In the best establishments, promises are always kept, whatever it may cost in agony and overtime.

But brains are not enough unless they are combined with intellectual honesty.

Ten minutes after crossing a potential hire's
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
A short book—he wrote a longer, tedious autobiography later—flushed with success, filled with advice, and somewhat less humorous then he thought. Which explains why he’s a Scot. How a Scot who flunked out of Oxbridge could start an agency that became the second largest of the “old” ad agencies isn’t really explained. Did someone write a book on the story of BBD&O—would love to read that. Until then, try “From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor.”
Omar Halabieh
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I recently finished reading Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy.

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found to be particularly insightful:

Today, the world of advertising faces four problems of crisis dimensions. The first problem is that manufacturers of package-goods products, which have always been the mainstay of advertising, are spending twice as much on price-off deals as on advertising...The second problem is that advertising agencies, notably in Britain, France, and t
John Lamb
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Charming from a 1950s perspective; quaint by today's standards. ...more
Peter Tieryas
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"This is more like an Art of War of marketing which you read in segments. Only, the philosophy is more genteel and pacific than Sun Tzu’s epic. I took it in small doses, like a thousand commercials compacted into one book." Full review at my blog.

First update I wrote about halfway through the book:

Great book, not just about marketing, but a modern philosophy to life. Some favorite quotes are:

“When Fortune published an article about me and titled it: “
Jun 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Eventhough I'm not working in this field, the first part about fishing for client and how to manage an advertising agency was really useful and as he said could be implemented for all kinds of design offices.

The rest of the book was an interesting insight on advertising industry in the 60's. Reading it was like glimpsing a view to an extinct world. Although the general principle might still be valid, I doubt the guidances mentioned inside are still in use. His insistence on presenting as much f
Simone Bocedi
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
OH MY. where to start?

1- I have never, ever, underlined so much in one single book, not even during my school time. If you work in advertising there is so much good stuff in here that it should be a must-read for any new employee of any ad agency (or marketing position inside a company). He gives so many advices and quotes and one-liners that are still very much valid today. 

2- if you're into Mad Men, THIS IS IT: David Ogilvy was a Madison Avenue ad man in the 50s and 60s, among drunken lunches,
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Even today (in 2012), this insight is brilliantly accurate:

"I have never wanted to get an account so big that I could not afford to lose it. The day you do that, you commit yourself to living with fear. Frightened agencies lose the courage to give candid advice; once you lose that, you become a lackey."

In my software/web startup experience over the last 12 years, this is absolutely true. Putting yourself and your company in this position will result in inevitable failure.
Paul Bard
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The perfect blend of style, experience, and research, this book presents the essential qualities of advertising, both the personal, practical, and formal.

But it a book to be discussed, not chewed privately. The tone is conversational and the insights have little regard for theory or numbered steps or formulas for success in the field; they must be run through verbally.

The author's candor and stolid excellence as a writer more than qualify him as a master of his field.
Dec 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Certainly interesting, oftentimes intriguing, especially for marketeers.

But, many of the tissues and practices that Ogilvy broaches are outdated, and hence the significance of the book lies in its historical context. Also, Ogilvy himself more often than not come through as a snotty and snob individual, which kind of diminishes the enjoyment of the book.
Sep 27, 2011 rated it did not like it
Creative genius or not, David Ogilvy was a bit too pompous for my taste. Add to that overt misogynistic comments and outdated rules for creating advertising, and this book took me straight to Yawnsville. Although, I did really enjoy the bit about not treating your consumer like a moron. That still makes perfect sense.
Daniel Taylor
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Entrepreneurs, marketers, copywriters
Recommended to Daniel by: Dan Kennedy
Advertising and marketing would be a very different beast if copywriters and ad agencies followed the principles in this book. It's a masterwork for a reason. Read it. Do it. Sell more. ...more
May 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: advertising, business
Not as applicable as it was, say, 50 years ago, but there are some quality nuggets of advice lurking within these pages. Well worth the read, if but from a historical perspective.
Ryan Glass
Oct 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Probably the best book I've read in years. Took it with me across Europe and couldn't put it down. I took several pages of notes just on the first chapter. ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This books offers great life advice -- advertising is just the window dressing. There are tips on leadership, team-building, and being a thoughtful, conscientious observer of small details. This is like "The Worst Designed Thing You've Never Noticed" but written in a Sorkin-esque voice, and handily available in book form. I'm shocked that this was from the 60s - the writing style is incredibly modern and doesn't feel dated at all (although, it certainly helps that Ogilvy himself went in and purp ...more
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David Mackenzie Ogilvy was born in West Horsley, England, on June 23, 1911. He was educated at Fettes College in Edinburgh and at Christ Church, Oxford (although he didn't graduate).
david ogilvy After Oxford, Ogilvy went to Paris, where he worked in the kitchen of the Hotel Majestic. He learned discipline, management - and when to move on: "If I stayed at the Majestic I would have faced years of s

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