Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Legendary ad man David Ogilvy, “would be totally baffled by social media, despite its being transparent,” Kenneth Roman says. Roman, the former Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather and author of the new David Ogilvy biography, “The King of Madison Avenue,” answered a few questions from me last week about his new book, which is a very interesting read.

Roman admits Ogilvy wasn’t much on emerging media. Sometimes noted as the father of American advertising, Ogilvy was a print man whose creative work sparked a paradigm shift in the advertising world with ads like, “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt,” and the famous Rolls-Royce ad that included the headline, “At 60 Miles an Hour the Loudest Noise in This New Rolls-Royce Comes from the Electric Clock.”

“Ogivly refused to talk about, ‘new media,” Roman said. “He simply didn’t understand technology in any form. But he did understand basic principles of how to communicate clearly, the importance of having the right message, and measuring the result with research.”

I’m sure Katie Paine’s heart just went aflutter.

In reading, “The King of Madison Avenue,” I was taken by some repetition in one of Ogilvy’s core philosophies:

“The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife. Never write an advertisement you would not want your own family to read. You would not tell lies to your wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”

The King of Madison Avenue by Kenneth RomanThe hypothesis of why social media exists is because consumers grew tired of advertising messages and turned to word-of-mouth recommendations – honest, friend-to-friend discussions – for product information. That coupled with the burgeoning technology available to connect like-minded consumer online led to social networks, Amazon, eBay and the like. It’s as if advertising stopped paying attention to Ogilvy’s rules (not that they were bound to them) and abused the notion the consumer isn’t a moron and doesn’t want to be lied to.

Is it because we stopped trusting advertising? Did they do something to lose that trust?

“I’m not sure that advertising is any less trusted, but it may be less effective for a litany of reasons,” Roman told me. “The principal reason the industry has strayed from Ogilvy’s ‘instructions’ is the pervasive influence of awards and popularity contests — such as those surrounding the Super Bowl ads. Some of the most effective advertising running today (from P&G, for example) never gets mentioned in these contexts.”

Another of Ogilvy’s tenants was that for an advertisement to be successful, it has to sell first. I can recall a handful of SuperBowl commercials I thought were cute, but none of them would lead me to buy the product they were advertising. So Roman has a point.

But at the core of social media lies this very ironic fabric of advertising. Social media marketing starts with listening which automatically puts a great sense of power and standing in the court of the consumer. The consumer is not a moron. Companies must be honest and transparent and respectful of the consumer to behave well in the social media space.

Maybe David Ogilvy had social media pegged all along.

Roman says todays advertising is closer to that Ogilvy ideal. My assumption is that might be partially as a result of the advent of social media. He said, “I am confident virtually all advertising today, in whatever media, is truthful and responsible. Whether it shows respect for the consumer does, of course, vary from advertiser to advertiser.”

As far as the future of advertising, Roman isn’t worried but knows social media is a big part of it.

“Advertising has always changed, and will continue to do so,” he said. “That is, the techniques have changed — not necessarily the fundamentals. Social marketing is a wonderful new medium that is effective in reaching a changing audience.”

“The King of Madison Avenue,” is a fantastic story of the storied advertising legend. It’s told by a man who knew and worked with him and is done so honestly, but respectfully. My great judge of a biographical work is two-fold. Was it easy to read and did Iearn something. Yes on both counts for this one.

The book is published by Palgrave Macmillan and will run you about $30. For an inside look into the history and life of David Ogilvy, I doubt you’ll find a better buy.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.theharteofmarketing.com Beth Harte

    Thanks for the insights Jason…looks to be an interesting read.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      'tis. And you're welcome, Beth. Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://www.theharteofmarketing.com Beth Harte

    Thanks for the insights Jason…looks to be an interesting read.

  • http://www.theharteofmarketing.com Beth Harte

    Thanks for the insights Jason…looks to be an interesting read.

  • http://tabithagracesmith.com/ Tabitha "Tabz" Smith

    Fantastic, I'm going to have to find this book. I love his quote on not lying to my wife, it's so true. If advertising and PR could only adopt that into it's core being.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      It should be easy to find. I saw it at Barnes & Noble this weekend. Enjoy!

  • http://tabithagracesmith.com/ Tabitha "Tabz" Smith

    Fantastic, I'm going to have to find this book. I love his quote on not lying to my wife, it's so true. If advertising and PR could only adopt that into it's core being.

  • http://tabithagracesmith.com/ Tabitha "Tabz" Smith

    Fantastic, I'm going to have to find this book. I love his quote on not lying to my wife, it's so true. If advertising and PR could only adopt that into it's core being.

  • http://stevegerl.com Steve Gerl

    This book is in the que of things to read. And I think that ads have changed since Ogilvy's time. We've gone from the man in the Hathaway shirt to someone getting hit in the groin with a snow globe. This shift could be at the root of the problem.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Yeah, Steve, I think Ogilvy would be a bit dismayed at most advertising today because A) It doesn't consider the intelligence of the consumer and B) It doesn't sell. I think Doritos ads are funny, but I don't want to go eat Doritos as a result of them. The book points out Ogilvy's concern with advertising toward the end of his life (mid-1990s) and that's pretty much where he seemed to stand. You'll enjoy the book. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://stevegerl.com Steve Gerl

    This book is in the que of things to read. And I think that ads have changed since Ogilvy's time. We've gone from the man in the Hathaway shirt to someone getting hit in the groin with a snow globe. This shift could be at the root of the problem.

  • http://stevegerl.com Steve Gerl

    This book is in the que of things to read. And I think that ads have changed since Ogilvy's time. We've gone from the man in the Hathaway shirt to someone getting hit in the groin with a snow globe. This shift could be at the root of the problem.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    'tis. And you're welcome, Beth. Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    'tis. And you're welcome, Beth. Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    It should be easy to find. I saw it at Barnes & Noble this weekend. Enjoy!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    It should be easy to find. I saw it at Barnes & Noble this weekend. Enjoy!

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Yeah, Steve, I think Ogilvy would be a bit dismayed at most advertising today because A) It doesn't consider the intelligence of the consumer and B) It doesn't sell. I think Doritos ads are funny, but I don't want to go eat Doritos as a result of them. The book points out Ogilvy's concern with advertising toward the end of his life (mid-1990s) and that's pretty much where he seemed to stand. You'll enjoy the book. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Yeah, Steve, I think Ogilvy would be a bit dismayed at most advertising today because A) It doesn't consider the intelligence of the consumer and B) It doesn't sell. I think Doritos ads are funny, but I don't want to go eat Doritos as a result of them. The book points out Ogilvy's concern with advertising toward the end of his life (mid-1990s) and that's pretty much where he seemed to stand. You'll enjoy the book. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Enjoy the read, Edward. If you’re fond of Ogilvy, you’ll enjoy the book. I learned a good deal about him and about advertising from it.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Enjoy the read, Edward. If you’re fond of Ogilvy, you’ll enjoy the book. I learned a good deal about him and about advertising from it.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Enjoy the read, Edward. If you’re fond of Ogilvy, you’ll enjoy the book. I learned a good deal about him and about advertising from it.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Enjoy the read, Edward. If you’re fond of Ogilvy, you’ll enjoy the book. I learned a good deal about him and about advertising from it.

  • http://www.DowellTaggart.com dowelltaggart

    There is so much advertising today that people tune it out. In order for it to work there has to be a huge benefit feature (like FREE) or an entertainment option (like the glass ball going through the vending machine). I HATE email now because of all the spam (and I have a lot of filters). I change the channels during commercials (except during the Super Bowl) because they are a waste of time. Yes advertising has changed.

  • http://www.DowellTaggart.com dowelltaggart

    There is so much advertising today that people tune it out. In order for it to work there has to be a huge benefit feature (like FREE) or an entertainment option (like the glass ball going through the vending machine). I HATE email now because of all the spam (and I have a lot of filters). I change the channels during commercials (except during the Super Bowl) because they are a waste of time. Yes advertising has changed.

  • http://www.DowellTaggart.com dowelltaggart

    There is so much advertising today that people tune it out. In order for it to work there has to be a huge benefit feature (like FREE) or an entertainment option (like the glass ball going through the vending machine). I HATE email now because of all the spam (and I have a lot of filters). I change the channels during commercials (except during the Super Bowl) because they are a waste of time. Yes advertising has changed.

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  • http://www.gypsybandito.com CT Moore

    With the way that media evolves so quickly now, I wonder if Ogilvy would've ever even succeeded in advertising today….

  • http://www.gypsybandito.com CT Moore

    With the way that media evolves so quickly now, I wonder if Ogilvy would've ever even succeeded in advertising today….

  • http://www.gypsybandito.com CT Moore

    With the way that media evolves so quickly now, I wonder if Ogilvy would've ever even succeeded in advertising today….

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/convince-convert-digital-marketing-blog jasonbaer

    If you've read “Ogilvy on Advertising” (and you should), this is a must read. It'll be hitting my Kindle soon. Maybe on the way to SXSW soon.

    I don't know that social media has risen because of changes in messaging, or even consumers' desire to get info from their “peers” instead of companies. More so, the absolute erosion of conglomerated audience (except for Super Bowl and Oscars) has made marketing a hyper-targeted game, rather than a mass-media game.

    I read recently (sorry, forgot the source) that it took 6 TV commercials in 1960 to reach essentially the entire American consumer population. Now, it takes 150+.

    The idea of finding your target audience and communicating with them on a one to many basis is a mathematical fallacy. Social media, search, targeted banners, mobile, experiential out-of-home, good direct mail, and a number of other tactics have filled that void.

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/convince-convert-digital-marketing-blog jasonbaer

    If you've read “Ogilvy on Advertising” (and you should), this is a must read. It'll be hitting my Kindle soon. Maybe on the way to SXSW soon.

    I don't know that social media has risen because of changes in messaging, or even consumers' desire to get info from their “peers” instead of companies. More so, the absolute erosion of conglomerated audience (except for Super Bowl and Oscars) has made marketing a hyper-targeted game, rather than a mass-media game.

    I read recently (sorry, forgot the source) that it took 6 TV commercials in 1960 to reach essentially the entire American consumer population. Now, it takes 150+.

    The idea of finding your target audience and communicating with them on a one to many basis is a mathematical fallacy. Social media, search, targeted banners, mobile, experiential out-of-home, good direct mail, and a number of other tactics have filled that void.

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com/convince-convert-digital-marketing-blog jasonbaer

    If you've read “Ogilvy on Advertising” (and you should), this is a must read. It'll be hitting my Kindle soon. Maybe on the way to SXSW soon.

    I don't know that social media has risen because of changes in messaging, or even consumers' desire to get info from their “peers” instead of companies. More so, the absolute erosion of conglomerated audience (except for Super Bowl and Oscars) has made marketing a hyper-targeted game, rather than a mass-media game.

    I read recently (sorry, forgot the source) that it took 6 TV commercials in 1960 to reach essentially the entire American consumer population. Now, it takes 150+.

    The idea of finding your target audience and communicating with them on a one to many basis is a mathematical fallacy. Social media, search, targeted banners, mobile, experiential out-of-home, good direct mail, and a number of other tactics have filled that void.

  • http://www.livingstonbuzz.com Geoff Livingston

    I think Ogilvy would have gotten it. He was so into the mind of the customer that social media to him would have been the ultimate canvassing and research mechanism. Just my two cents.

  • http://www.livingstonbuzz.com Geoff Livingston

    I think Ogilvy would have gotten it. He was so into the mind of the customer that social media to him would have been the ultimate canvassing and research mechanism. Just my two cents.

  • http://www.livingstonbuzz.com Geoff Livingston

    I think Ogilvy would have gotten it. He was so into the mind of the customer that social media to him would have been the ultimate canvassing and research mechanism. Just my two cents.

  • http://www.intersectionofonlineandoffline.com Mark Story

    Dude, Bullshit bingo alert. You said “paradigm shift.”

  • http://www.intersectionofonlineandoffline.com Mark Story

    Dude, Bullshit bingo alert. You said “paradigm shift.”

  • http://www.intersectionofonlineandoffline.com Mark Story

    Dude, Bullshit bingo alert. You said “paradigm shift.”

  • http://www.digigen.wordpress.com MBB

    Hey Jason. Just got this book myself and looking forward to tucking into it. “Confessions of An Advertising Man” is already one of my favourites which I share around gleefully.

    In reality I don't think there are alot of ad agencies who seem to listen to Ogilvy's wisewords. One particular favourite is “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.”. Why has advertising changed so much? Why is a gorilla a suitable advert for a Dairy Milk? Why is Dancing suitable for showing off T-Mobile?

    Who knows. However, in both these cases the ad agencies have still managed to create adverts which have flown, been talked about, and in both cases caused some of the most successful campaigns in current memory.

    Perhaps Sir David needs a little bit of updating for century 21? Anyone fancy joining me in disecting and reapplying?

    M

  • http://www.digigen.wordpress.com MBB

    Hey Jason. Just got this book myself and looking forward to tucking into it. “Confessions of An Advertising Man” is already one of my favourites which I share around gleefully.

    In reality I don't think there are alot of ad agencies who seem to listen to Ogilvy's wisewords. One particular favourite is “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.”. Why has advertising changed so much? Why is a gorilla a suitable advert for a Dairy Milk? Why is Dancing suitable for showing off T-Mobile?

    Who knows. However, in both these cases the ad agencies have still managed to create adverts which have flown, been talked about, and in both cases caused some of the most successful campaigns in current memory.

    Perhaps Sir David needs a little bit of updating for century 21? Anyone fancy joining me in disecting and reapplying?

    M

  • http://www.digigen.wordpress.com MBB

    Hey Jason. Just got this book myself and looking forward to tucking into it. “Confessions of An Advertising Man” is already one of my favourites which I share around gleefully.

    In reality I don't think there are alot of ad agencies who seem to listen to Ogilvy's wisewords. One particular favourite is “A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.”. Why has advertising changed so much? Why is a gorilla a suitable advert for a Dairy Milk? Why is Dancing suitable for showing off T-Mobile?

    Who knows. However, in both these cases the ad agencies have still managed to create adverts which have flown, been talked about, and in both cases caused some of the most successful campaigns in current memory.

    Perhaps Sir David needs a little bit of updating for century 21? Anyone fancy joining me in disecting and reapplying?

    M

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