What Would David Ogilvy Have Thought About Social Media?

On a recent vacation I read Confessions of an Ad Man by the late, great David Ogilvy. Ogilvy is regarded by many as the father of advertising, and his approach to copywriting, creativity and agency structure still resonates today. As I was reading his story, I started to wonder what he would think of digital marketing and in particular, social media…


David was a busy man, and Twitter can be a time consuming activity if not managed correctly, however he was also a great consumer of knowledge and opinion (he advises that we should all read a book per day on holiday) and Twitter is a great source for both. As a marketing tool it may well have appealed due to his like for succinct headlines – if you want to get someone to click a link within a tweet it needs to have a compelling reason to do so, spelled out in the short space you have to work with. The listening powers of Twitter would also have helped David keep an eye on rival brands related to his clients, which would have appealed to his competitive nature.


I don’t tend to think of Facebook as a direct response mechanism at a basic level – it’s great for sharing news with your customers and prospects, generating conversations and growing a community that will hopefully help you to spread the word. David would have appreciated the ability to gather feedback from a customer base without the need for focus group. An area of Facebook that would be of great interest to Mr Ogilvy would be apps. Creating apps within Facebook allows us to create more simplistic opportunities for direct response, whether that be gathering data, making an enquiry or actually completing a purchase. This would have been in line with Ogilvy’s approach of proving worth via consumer action.

The Dapper David Ogilvy (image - http://10engines.blogspot.com)

Facebook Ads

Bingo! ‘Dave’ would have loved Facebook ads – he waxed lyrical about the importance of engaging headline copy and hard hitting sub copy, two things that are paramount to a successful Facebook ad. If you throw in the fact that he could have targeted particular demographics etc then I believe that David would have hailed Facebook ads as King. Not to mention the pure direct response nature of them.


While David was a fan of punchy copy, he also talks about not being scared to write longer prose when required and how successful it can be. The long form nature of a blog would’ve appealed to David as would the flexibility of a blog platform. Imagery was hugely important in David’s work and we all know that images and infographics can add so much to a post. He clearly liked to write and a blog would have been the perfect home for him.


Another win in David’s eyes, YouTube (other video sharing sites are available) would have been a Mecca for the King of 5th. The ability to study other agencies work in the form of TV ads and virals (which would have also held great appeal) would’ve been a mainstay of D.O.’s research. Of course the ability to reach potentially huge audiences would also have been an attractive proposition.


Who knows where + will lead for brands, but you can be sure that David would have been itching to get involved and lead the way.

Overall I think David would have seen value in social media marketing, however the purist’s that social media ‘is not about selling’ may well have put him off. I can bet he would have tried his damnedest to make the most of it, and perhaps even shake up the way people in business view it.

So what do you think? Would David have been behind social media or would it have been too fluffy for him? What about other social media channels such as Quora or Wikipedia?

Disclaimer – clearly I never met Mr Ogilvy so there is no evidence behind these thoughts other than what I gleamed from the book.


Book featured – Confessions of an Advertising Man

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About Mike McGrail

Mike McGrail is the owner of The Social Penguin Blog. He is the MD of Velocity Digital. He likes scotch and leather-bound books. Follow Mike's ramblings on Twitter. He also resides on Google Plus here.