The Wizard Of Ads And Abraham Maslow

Time magazine once called Ogilvy “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry.” To celebrate his 100th birthday, Michele Miller, a partner in the Wizard of Ads marketing firm, recently posted a June of 2011 posting honoring “The Father of Advertising,” David Ogilvy. David passed in 1999.

We think samples of his quotes are worth repeating: 

  • “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting you buy the product.”
  • “You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade.”
  • “Specifics work better than generalities. When research reported that the average shopper thought Sears Roebuck made a profit of 37% on sales, I headlined an advertisement ‘Sears makes a profit of 5%.’ This specific was more persuasive than saying that Sears’ profit was ‘less than you might suppose’ or something equally vague.”
  • “What is a good advertisement? An advertisement which pleases you because of its style or an advertisement which sells the most? They are seldom the same.”
  • “There have always been noisy lunatics on the fringes of the advertising business. Their stock-in-trade includes ethnic humor, eccentric art direction, contempt for research, and their self-proclaimed genius. They are seldom found out, because they gravitate to the kind of clients who, bamboozled by their rhetoric, do not hold them responsible for sales results.”
  • “Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science and in business. But your conscious has to be well informed or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret.”
  • “Repeat your winners. If you are lucky enough to write a good advertisement, repeat it until it stops selling. Scores of good advertisements have been discarded before they lost their potency.”
  • “Don’t keep a dog and bark yourself. Any fool can write a bad advertisement, but it takes a genius to keep his hands off a good one.”
  • “When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing each of them a letter on behalf of your client. One human being to another, second person singular.”
  • “The best way to improve the sale of a product is to improve the product.”
  • “They (general advertisers) worship at the altar of creativity, which really means originality — the most dangerous word in the lexicon of advertising.”
  • “When you advertise fire-extinguishers, open with fire.”



You can reach your own conclusions as to the efficacy of his pearls of wisdom. Although you may not agree with all of Ogilvy’s beliefs, he had an exceptional understanding of human communications. He clearly understood the value of authenticity in advertising and that its purpose is to connect with the customer and sell the product or service. 

Ogilvy didn’t live long enough to see the proliferation of online marketing but his observations are applicable today. If you want to connect with older customers, authenticity is essential. To connect and sell to the Boomer and older customer populations, we strongly recommend online marketers consider the predominant values and motivators in their stage of life. The fact that most marketing messages either project values associated with lower level needs or fail to reflect the transcendent values of psychology professor Abraham Maslow’s self-actualization concept suggests that relatively few marketers have a 101 level of understanding of the older people to whom they direct their online marketing messages.

It stands beyond any need to defend the proposition that online marketing success rises or falls according to the marketer’s understanding of the customer’s worldview, values and aspirations. The understanding of the older psyche that every marketer working in older markets wants is rooted in empirical research. While Maslow actually did little empirical research he was gifted with an awesome level of intuitive insight about human behavior, others have investigated many of his insights in empirical studies and the research insights are available in abundance.

1 comment about "The Wizard Of Ads And Abraham Maslow ".
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  1. Ian Straus from VIA Metropolitan Transit, July 2, 2012 at 12:56 p.m.

    I'm glad to get the Ogilvy quotes.

    But as for Maslow, i've never put faith in him.

    Why? When I was first introduced to his hierarchy of needs, I had just come out of a line of work that traditionally and very successfully violates it. That is the Army.
    According to Maslow we can never explain soldiers advancing against the enemy. Since in that situation the lowest-level need for personal safety is unfulfilled.

    More examples come to mind.

    So regarding the subject of this blog entry: In all situations what Maslow called higher level needs are powerful.
    The social needs may be the most powerful of all.

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