Ogilvy, David (1911-1999)

Published on .

Most Popular
Born in West Horsley, England, on June 23, 1911, David Mackenzie Ogilvy was educated at Fettes College, Edinburgh, and at Christ Church College, Oxford, though he did not take a degree at Christ Church. After college, he spent a year as a sous-chef in Paris in the early 1930s and another year selling Aga Cooker stoves door to door in England.

In 1936, Mr. Ogilvy began work at London-based agency Mather & Crowther, where his older brother Francis was general manager. In 1938, Mather & Crowther sent Mr. Ogilvy to New York to learn about U.S. advertising. He extended his stay to work for George Gallup as associate director of the Audience Research Institute in Princeton, N.J.

World War II postponed Mr. Ogilvy's advertising ambitions, and after three years with Gallup, he joined British intelligence in 1942; he later worked in the British embassy in Washington. After the war, he spent a brief time as a farmer in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

In 1948, Mr. Ogilvy went to his brother at Mather & Crowther with a plan to launch a "British agency" in the U.S. Mather & Crowther and S.H. Benson Ltd., another London shop, each invested $45,000 in the new venture, and Anderson Hewitt was chosen to run the shop. The agency opened in September 1948 under the name Hewitt, Ogilvy, Benson & Mather.

Mr. Ogilvy became one of the central figures in advertising's "creative revolution." Among the campaigns that established his reputation were his "man in the eyepatch" ads for Hathaway shirts, his "Commander Whitehead" campaign for Schweppes and a print ad for Rolls-Royce that carried the headline, "At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock." Mr. Ogilvy also believed that research could identify the elements that go into successful advertising and that it was the agency's duty to understand such data

Mr. Ogilvy's readiness with a bon mot made him one of advertising's most-quoted figures. From "The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Don't insult her intelligence" to "Unless your campaign contains a Big Idea, it will pass like a ship in the night," "Ogilvyisms," as they came to be called, peppered Mr. Ogilvy's writings.

His 1963 book, "Confessions of an Advertising Man." brought Mr. Ogilvy before the public at large, which delighted in his iconoclasm and irreverence.

Mr. Ogilvy merged his agency with Mather & Crowther in 1964 and served as chairman until 1965, when he dropped that title in favor of the title creative director. The next year he shortened the agency's name to Ogilvy & Mather and formed a holding company, Ogilvy & Mather International, with himself as chairman. Later that year he took the company public.

In 1973, Mr. Ogilvy gave up day-to-day management duties and moved to Bonnes, France, where he and his third wife, Herta Lans, took up residence in a chateau called Touffou. Despite the distance from Madison Avenue, Mr. Ogilvy remained in close touch with the advertising business.

In 1975, Mr. Ogilvy retired as chairman of OMI but continued to influence agency affairs that interested him and to represent the company to clients. He unsuccessfully fought a hostile takeover by Martin Sorrell's WPP Group in 1989.

By the late 1990s, he ceased active involvement with the agency. He died at Chateau Touffou on July 21, 1999.

Biography

Born in West Horsley, England, June 23, 1911; attended Christ Church College, Oxford, 1929-31; founded Hewitt, Ogilvy, Benson & Mather, New York, 1948; published "Confessions of an Advertising Man," 1963; named Commander of the British Empire, 1967; retired as chairman of parent company, Ogilvy & Mather International, 1975; named to U.S. Advertising Hall of Fame, 1977; elected to France's Order of Arts & Letters, 1990; died July 21, 1999.

In this article: