There is a big reason not to read this book: I’m not in advertising.
But as a business professional, there are even more reasons to read this book. This book is a great read if you sell anything, which you do. Even in a corporate job, you sell ideas, projects, services, etc. to your “customers.” Using words and design to motivate others to action is the basis of advertising and Ogilvy was among the best at it. Ogilvy also gives his tips on management, communication, sales, client relationships, and other areas.
Ogilvy’s emphasis on hard work and data-driven decisions is a clear foundation for his success. Data overall has become a buzz word and concept recently but only because of technological advances in the collection and access we have to it. Ogilvy knew the power of data and used it to create success, it just took a lot more work when he started than it does today. Respecting others (both inside your organization, clients, and consumers) is also a strong theme throughout the book. Understanding who your audience is and giving them respect and honesty will go a long way in any business!
Ogilvy demands well thought-out and refined communication. Ogilvy says that “the more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.” But he also advises to keep your inter-office memos short and to the point. As a professional, take communication seriously. Write what is needed, but no more.
There are some outdated references and data in the book. TV ads were new when he wrote the book, so it is short on advice there. Sears, Roebuck is praised for advertising, as they should have been in the 1960s. Sears is definitely not a powerhouse anymore but very relevant at the time! If you can look past these few outdated references then you will enjoy the advice in this book.
I highly recommend reading Confessions of an Advertising Man if you are in any business. There are a lot of great quotable passages in the book, coined “Olgilvy-isms;” here are a few of my favorites:
“It is important to admit your mistakes and to do so before you are charged with them.”
“Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating.”
“No manufacturer ever complained that his advertising was selling too much.”
“I admire people with gentle manners who treat other people as human beings.”
– David Ogilvy
Bottom line: I will keep this one on my shelf and read it again.