Creative Patagonia David Ogilvy

Why ‘David Ogilvy’ must die


By David Baldwin, Founder

January 22, 2018 | 5 min read

David Ogilvy reigned as one of advertising's kings for a chunk of the 20th century. In his time, he was probably the most famous copywriter in the world with copy that was at once clever and straightforward, and above all, crafted to sell products. If there were a Mount Rushmore of the advertising industry, Ogilvy's face would be immortalized upon it. I remain in awe of his talent and a big fan. I love David Ogilvy.

David Ogilvy, from The Drum's 2016 Cannes issue

David Ogilvy, from The Drum's 2016 Cannes issue / The Drum

That said, "David Ogilvy" must die.

I know, the king's physical being departed this world in 1999, but the advertising principles of his era — some might call them iron clad rules — continue to drive how we practice our craft. "Your role is to sell, don't let anything distract you from the sole purpose of advertising."

Many of these applications and concepts of this legendary time in our business have little place in 21st-century advertising and marketing. Often during my career, which began in 1985, I heard the words from clients, "I don't care if it's good work, I just want it to sell my product."

The new paradigm is to sell more relevantly. Here are some reasons the old ways must change:

"Selling" at all costs isn't enough anymore. Ogilvy had one goal above all others: Sell, sell, and sell some more, his principles widely adopted across the advertising world. It's time for brands to disconnect from the old ways and learn how to connect with people through a set of clearly communicated core beliefs and values.

Ogilvy himself never had to create for the Internet, mobile devices, apps, video games or social media feeds. Because media has become so much more personal, advertising must be more nuanced. People — not consumers — want products to match their core values and beliefs. The game has changed.

Purpose, not just products. We live in what I call, The Belief Economy, driven mainly by millennials and iGen, which demands that brands have a defined, authentic belief system and act accordingly.

Sustainable clothing company Patagonia has a devoted customer base, in large part because it does not adhere to the old system of advertising. In 2011, the company ran a campaign around Christmas, urging customers not to buy a specific jacket. The idea behind the "Don't Buy This Jacket" campaign was to urge people to buy a new jacket only if they needed it. Additionally, they offered to repair people's current jackets rather than have them thrown out. They're still doing things like this today as evidenced by their latest campaign, "The President Stole Your Land."

Collaboration over consumption. The term "consumer" dehumanizes people, reducing them to faceless entities that represent nothing more than dollar signs. But today's tools allow brands to motivate and inspire and provide an opportunity for co-creation which creates something more valuable than selling, buy-in.

What impact do brands have beyond the advertising and sale of a product? What does the brand stand for? All of these questions require careful consideration, and brands should not run from them because they can't afford to. It's time to lean in and give a damn.

Ogilvy famously said, "The customer is not a moron, she's your wife." He was trying to instill a sense of the person in the ad industry at a time when wives and moms were the gatekeepers of products that entered the household. Wives are no longer the gatekeepers. Now, everyone shops for everything all the time.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and the same-sex revolution is changing everything up and down society. The very idea of shopping has changed. It can be done online in between completing reports at work. Or people shop in-store with online mobile comparison help — a medium that did not exist robustly even ten years ago.

Brands without a communicated set of values will be left behind as the economic buying power of Millennials and iGen continues to grow over the next 40 years. A brand's values and impact are even more critical to iGen, and research strongly indicates both generations' purchasing decisions are influenced by knowing what a brand stands for.

The old rules aren't right or wrong, but some of them are growing outdated, and advertising needs to evolve alongside Millennials and iGen.

"David Ogilvy" must die because the world David Ogilvy inhabited no longer exists sociologically or physically.

Creative Patagonia David Ogilvy

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