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David Ogilvy: making every word count

David Ogilvy: making every word count
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First Published: Thu, Jun 23 2011. 01 46 AM IST

Updated: Thu, Jun 23 2011. 01 46 AM IST
New Delhi/ Mumbai: As the ad world sets out to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of David Ogilvy, often referred to as the ‘father of advertising’, on 23 June, Piyush Pandey, chairman of Ogilvy and Mather Pvt. Ltd (O&M), reminisces how the founder of one of the world’s leading creative agencies often “bummed” his cigarettes for fun.
Pandey, the man behind some of O&M’s most memorable ads in India—including Vodafone Essar Ltd’s Zoozoo, Pidilite Industries Ltd’s Fevicol and Cadbury India Ltd’s Kuch Khaas Hai campaigns—remembers Ogilvy as a man who loved chatting about cricket, hated flying, preferred trains to visit Indian cities, and loved the colour red.
Pandey first met Ogilvy in Mumbai in the 1980s when he was barely a few months into the advertising business. He later got to visit the advertising icon’s Chateau de Touffou castle in Bonnes, France.
“It was scary in parts,” says Pandey, recollecting the prank Herta (Ogilvy’s wife) played on him sauntering around the mansion draped in a white sheet.
Ogilvy, who famously declared that “every word in the copy must count,” died in 1999 at age 88 after a prolonged illness. O&M, the company he founded in 1948, is running a global campaign on microblogging network Twitter inviting people to answer the question: What inspires you?
And that’s just a prelude to the red carpet roll-out at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, an annual event for the advertising fraternity held in France.
The longest red carpet will go along the entire length of the Croisette (one of the main roads in Cannes) on Thursday, leading to a giant billboard outside the event’s main venue that’ll state: “On this day, 100 years ago, David was born to inspire.”
Alyque Padamsee, ad film-maker and former chief executive of Lowe Lintas India Pvt. Ltd who was behind the famous Liril soap campaigns, says Ogilvy continues to inspire a breed of advertising professionals.
Padamsee met Ogilvy when he was moderating a session in 1982 at an advertising convention, where Ogilvy was speaking. Ironically, for someone who dedicated his life to advertising, Ogilvy was a man of few words, as Padamsee recalls. “He spoke in short sentences, but there was immense clarity in his thoughts.”
Padamsee says he was shocked when Ogilvy said that in his entire life he had thought up not more than 6-7 big ideas.
David Mackenzie Ogilvy, born in West Horsley, England, in 1911, clearly had ideas of his own. Never mind even if that involved, by his own admission, getting “thrown out of Oxford” because he couldn’t pass the exams. After that, Ogilvy worked in the kitchen of a Paris hotel briefly before he became a door-to-door salesman for a brand called Aga Cookers. Ogilvy may have found his calling here, given that he wrote a sales guide that business magazine Fortune would later describe as “the best sales manual ever written.”
Ogilvy briefly also worked as a farmer in a county in Pennsylvania.
In 1948, he founded ad agency Hewitt, Ogilvy, Benson and Mather with financial support from another advertising agency based in London called Mather and Crowther. The name was changed to Ogilvy, Benson and Mather in 1953, and to Ogilvy and Mather International in 1965, before settling on Ogilvy and Mather in the mid-80s.
Given Ogilvy’s acumen in advertising, it was no surprise the company won assignments from Lever Brothers, Shell and American Express, to name a few.
And while Ogilvy was changing the advertising landscape around the world, his books, including Confessions of an Advertising Man, were becoming best-sellers.
In India, a new breed of advertising professionals were being inspired by what he wrote.
“When he first came to India, he found, to his immense surprise, a very knowledgeable bunch of advertising folks who had read his book and knew everything about him,” says Ranjan Kapur, country manager, WPP Group, now the parent company of O&M. Kapur served Ogilvy for more than 40 years and was the chairman of O&M between 1993 to 2003.
He remembers his first meeting with Ogilvy on a street outside the company’s New York headquarters. “It (New York) wasn’t one of his favourite cities and he bundled me into his car and grilled me on my life in the city,” says Kapur, who was employed as the management supervisor in New York.
According to Kapur, Ogilvy’s famous phrase, “the consumer is not a moron, she is your wife,” is the philosophy that sets Ogilvy India apart from its competitors and drives its reputation even today. “Our ads are charming and humorous and they give the consumers the regard that they deserve,” he says.
“Ogilvyisms” such as the one Kapur mentioned were fast inspiring young advertising professionals, many of whom would later head ad agencies in India.
M.G. Parameswaran, chief executive, Draft FCB Ulka Advertising Pvt. Ltd, says Ogilvy’s books became mandatory reading for stepping into the world of advertising. “He, along with Claude Hopkins, Rosser Reeves and Bill Bernbach, were some of the role models and gurus whom we learnt from. It, indeed, is a moment to rethink if the current generation has such role models... who did not pursue personal glory or awards but were focused on one key job, building their client’s businesses.”
The journey of Ogilvy and Mather in India
1928: he company starts as DJ Keymer and Co. Ltd
1 948: Ogilvy and Mather is founded by David Ogilvy in New York
1958: Company’s name changes to Bomas Ltd
1967: The name, and not ownership, changes to SH Benson (India) Pvt. Ltd
1972: Company is now called Ogilvy Benson and Mather Pvt. Ltd
1989: The name is further changed when Ogilvy and Mather Pvt. Ltd buys out the company. Meanwhile, Ogilvy and Mather’s parent firm became WPP Group
2001: The name of the company gets formally changed to Ogilvy and Mather Pvt. Ltd
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First Published: Thu, Jun 23 2011. 01 46 AM IST
More Topics: David Ogilvy | Ads | Piyush Pandey | Zoozoo | Herta |