David Ogilvy, dubbed the “Father of Advertising,” was a man ahead of his time. In an era when advertising was still finding its way, Ogilvy valued both “the big idea” — the inspiration factor that is the bedrock of all truly great marketing — as well as research. The man (upon whom many believe the character of Don Draper in “Mad Men” is based) got his start at Gallup, where he learned that meticulous research was a key to understanding consumer attitudes and desires.
At the helm of Ogilvy & Mather, he led the way in a revamped view of advertising in the 1960s that people now consider the Golden Age of the industry. It started with Roosevelt — when he engaged Eleanor to be a spokesperson for “Good Luck Margarine in 1959 — and ended with Rolls Royce, when he had the world’s biggest and most impressive clients knocking on his agency’s door.
Ogilvy retired in 1973 (though he came out of hibernation to handle a few advertising missions) and died in 1999. But the current fascination with native advertising would be something the prescient Ogilvy would have grokked immediately.
After all, it was Ogilvy who once said, “There is no need for advertisements to look like advertisements. If you make them look like editorial pages, you will attract about 50 percent more readers.” And he said it decades before anyone bandied about the terms “advertorial” or “native advertising.”
That’s because Ogilvy believed in the power of information — knowing what customers really needed, wanted, and liked — an essential component of native advertising’s appeal. Data is what now drives native, and Ogilvy knew it in 1960.
Ogilvy also said: “In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.” In a word, this advertising giant knew that all the creative ideas in the world were not worth a farthing if the company behind the ad didn’t see results on the bottom line.
And the fascination among native advertisers for stories, videos, and humor? Ogilvy would have understood that, too.
Laughter, Ogilvy knew, was as good a salesman as fact.
“The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible,” he once said.
Is it any wonder that native advertising’s best moments (a lot of them via video) are coming from campaigns that emphasize life’s hilarity and serendipity?
David Ogilvy would have been a great advocate for native advertising. The ultimate storyteller, he knew that ads were not ads due to the way they looked or were sold, but instead how they motivated the public.