If I never smoked, I might never have met one of advertising's greatest legends.
It was 1991 and I was attending the then-customary black-tie dinner at the Association of National Advertisers' annual meeting in Phoenix when a tuxedoed figure swooped into the empty seat beside me. Asking for permission more or less as an afterthought, he grabbed my cigarette pack, shook out a Marlboro and lit it.
Not that it mattered, of course. I would never have refused David Ogilvy.
The man who wrote the book on advertising -- literally -- lingered at the table for a few minutes chatting with my seat mates from client Campbell Soup. As a young reporter, I admit to being tongue tied, but not so badly that I wasn't able to request an interview the following day.
Perhaps it was his 80 years of age, or simply his way, but in a stroke of pure political incorrectness, Mr. Ogilvy decreed that it would be held in his room. And so came to be the most extraordinary interview in my quarter century at Ad Age -- chronicling the confessions of an advertising man in his twilight years. All the while, he lay stretched out on a bed in the Arizona Biltmore clad in those ever-present red suspenders and puffing away steadily on a stogie.
During our talk, he seemed way ahead of his time, discussing everything from compensation -- "If you say you are going to make money and cut back on service, you'll make money but the client will fire you. Give lots and lots of service, they'll love you but you'll go bankrupt" -- to his legend. From my story: "When told at dinner the previous night that he is the last great figure in the advertising world, he paused to think. 'I wonder if it's true. If it is , it's a pity.'"
David Ogilvy would have celebrated his 100th birthday in three weeks but Ad Age is starting the party now. If you have a memory of Mr. Ogilvy, his legend or a story about how he influenced you, Ad Age would love to hear it. Please share it in the comments below. We're also tweeting our favorite "Ogilvyisms" from @adage using the hashtag #ogilvy100. Join in.
UPDATE: Please note that there is a 500-word limit on the commenting system. And the interwebs has decided to simply eat longer comments rather than show truncated versions. We're working on this.