David Ogilvy: The Cultural Impact of America’s Most Influential Ad Man
Updated: Sep 30, 2019
By Jocelyn Clendening, Account Executive
Media analytics experts estimate that the average American is exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads in one day. In a world that’s completely inundated and obsessed with selling, what has the ability to cut through the clutter? What makes people stop scrolling? This question has always fascinated me and prompted my curiosity about the masterful strategies behind it.
From the creation of the printing press to the rise of the digital age, the history of the advertising industry tells a truly engrossing story of American ideals, innovation and creativity. One of the most influential characters in this age-old story is David Ogilvy, founder of the Ogilvy & Mather ad agency. Ogilvy, known as the “Father of Advertising,” was the first person to truly implement and advocate for the use of emotion in branding. Just like American culture, the advertising industry is an endless cycle of trends that come and go, then come again; however, Ogilvy’s philosophy remains timeless.
Think about the best ad you’ve ever seen. Odds are, it employed emotional appeals that made you feel something -- like you were a part of something larger than life. These advertisements stick with us because they aren’t explicitly selling a product or service; they sell stories and values that we connect with on a deeper level than our material desires.
Ogilvy’s own story could be considered the quintessential “American dream” -- an Englishman who immigrated to the U.S. in search of success and prosperity. He quickly became a legend in copywriting in New York at Gallup, which propelled his career in advertising. Perhaps his own understanding of human ambition allowed him to connect with the American public like no “ad man” ever had before.
So how does this emphasis on emotion and branding affect us today? As emerging communications professionals, we’re presented with a challenge that’s unique to our generation: “to make brands matter in a complex, noisy, hyper-connected world”. We can either view this as an obstacle in our communications efforts, or use it as an opportunity to learn from the greats of the past, break new creative ground, and attempt to restore humanity in a faceless, digital world. Mr. Ogilvy said it best: “Tell the truth, but make it fascinating”.