02/01/2009: "David Ogilvy, One of the Greatest Copywriters - His Story"
The new book about David Ogilvy, The King of Madison Avenue is one of the best biographies I've ever read. It also tells about great copywriting and what sets it apart of most copywriting.
While the author knew and had a deep respect for David Ogilvy, he provides us with what I believe to be a very honest biography of the man. You will meet the real David Ogilvy. You'll see all of his great strengths but you'll also see his weaknesses and his less than appealing side.
Ogilvy learned much of his copywriting skills from his mentor and later brother-in-law, Rosser Reeves. He also took a good deal of value from the great Claude Hopkins. He was a listener. He asked everyone lots of questions.
When he was writing copy for an ad or when he had a new account, he dug deeply and discovered just what really made that product different. Then he wrote some of the greatest sales copy ever written.
For example, the people at Dove soap wanted to sell it on the basis that it was neutral --- neither acid nor alkaline. Ogilvy knew that wouldn't sell Dove. He was, after all, a salesman.
So he probed. He found out how Dove was made. And, oh yes, it had cold cream in it. That was it! "DOVE IS ONE-QUARTER CLEANSING CREAM-IT CREAMS YOUR SKIN WHILE YOU WASH."
That's what people pay a "great" copywriter for. That's why copywriters are not cheap and if they are cheap, they're not this good. Ogilvy found the one thing that would sell the product and it did sell. Dove sales, for example, took off.
I found this book extremely well-written. It's exciting and informative. The author gives us a balanced look at Ogilvy, from his beginnings through his great career.
I've found that great copywriting is a skill few people have. But, that's OK. Most clients won't pay for it anyway. I reserve my very best work for clients who can afford to pay me what I'm worth.
Should you try to be a great copywriter like Ogilvy? Should you dig for the real, single-most unique selling proposition that will really sell your client's product. Of course. But don't waste that sort of work on the low paying clients you'll likely get on the Internet. Reserve it for high-paying clients who understand and appreciate that sort of copywriting and advertising.
On the Internet you'll find people who go so far as to think they can write their own copy. They have absolutely no idea what real copywriting is. And, you can't educate them. Save your energy.
I advise you to work for a great agency if you can. If not, find just a very few really terrific, well-paying clients. Then you can afford to be great. Otherwise, just be good enough.