An effective tactic David Ogilvy used to grow his agency, Ogilvy & Mather, was to write “how-to” editorial-style house ads on topics such as:
- How to create advertising that sells
- How to launch new products
- How to make your sales promotion more profitable
- How much should you spend on advertising
- How to advertise travel
- How to create corporate advertising that gets results.
In his ad, "How to create advertising that sells," Ogilvy opens with:
Ogilvy & Mather has created over $1,480,000,000 worth of advertising, and spent $4,900,000 tracking the results.
Here, with all the dogmatism of brevity, are 38 of the things we have learned.
His strategy was to give away a sampling of his agency’s expertise and then close each ad with a compelling call-to-action:
Is this all we know?
These findings apply to most categories of products. But not to all.
Ogilvy & Mather has developed a separate and specialized body of knowledge on what makes for success in advertising food products, tourist destinations, proprietary medicines, children's products and other classifications.
But this special information is revealed only to the clients of Ogilvy & Mather.
With that last line, he makes us thirsty to learn more and our only way to quench that thirst is to become a client.
How to Make Audiences Thirst for Your Expertise
Here are the principles to persuasive copywriting at work in Ogilvy’s approach:
1. The editorial style makes the ad more likely to be read because it comes across as a source of useful information, not self-aggrandizement that mark too many conventional print ads.
2. The “how-to” headlines are effective in making us curious to read the answer.
3. By offering a substantive sampling of his knowledge, Ogilvy is giving you just enough information to think, “Wow! This guy knows what he’s talking about. This is someone I want to head my campaign.”
But he doesn’t give away everything, which makes you want to learn more. In a sense, Ogilvy is creating a tension inside you: He has something you want but don’t have right now. And he says he can help you resolve that tension...if you become a client.
Ogilvy: Father of Modern Content Marketing?
Another way to think of Ogilvy's approach to his agency’s house ads is as a precursor to a blog or other tools used in content marketing today. Shouldn't we pursue the same objectives?
- Build our credibility as experts and thought leaders in our field
- Grab readers’ attention with headlines that signify that they are about to receive valuable info
- Provide a taste of our knowledge that makes our audience thirst for more
- Create such a compelling tension in our audience that they must contact us -- even do business with us -- to get what they want and resolve that tension.
How do these mesh with your goals for your company's content strategy?
View Content Development as "Paid Work"
Do you ever get tempted to put off writing and publishing thought leadership content (whether a blog post, bylined article, or white paper) because it's not billable work?
If so, think about this: Ogilvy was Chairman of the Board at Ogilvy & Mather and yet viewed writing house ads as such a high priority that he made the time to write those ads himself. And for good reason -- those ads made the agency a lot of money and are still talked about 30+ years later.
In other words, it was actually “paid work” because the content pulled in paying customers.
Isn’t that how we should view our content marketing today?
Image via Ogilvy & Mather
About the Author: Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC (www.lydencommunications.com), a business communication consulting firm that advises companies on honing their message and their methods to more effectively influence their markets -- whether customers, partners, investors or employees. Practice areas include content strategy, sales strategy & coaching, and executive communication consulting. A feature writer for several automotive and trucking trade publications, Sean is also co-author of “How to Succeed and Make Money on Your First Rental House” (John Wiley & Sons) and contributor to "The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide” and “The Great Big Book of Business Lists,” both books published by Entrepreneur Press.
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