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LOUNGING, SMOKING, THINKING OUT LOUD

By Published on .

The first time I met David Ogilvy, he cadged a cigarette. Although 80, he slid with agility into the empty seat next to me at an industry dinner. While my back was turned, he reached over and grabbed my Marlboros. I spun around to see advertising's largest living legend stealing a smoke with aplomb.

Although that dinner and a subsequent interview eight years ago were brief, the memory was lasting. In that, I wasn't alone. Even the CEO-studded audience at the Association of National Advertisers meeting where he spoke seemed a bit awed. Wherever he walked, the sea of people seemed to part and then edge closer for a word or a handshake.

When I asked for the interview, he decreed, without regard for political correctness, that it be held in his room-where he spent the entire time lounging across a bed, red braces on and puffing relentlessly on a stogie.

Among his comments: "[Going public] was the biggest mistake of my whole life, and I'm embarrassed by it. I didn't realize what I was doing. In those days, takeovers hadn't been invented. But the day we went public we became a target. Looking back, it took surprisingly long for it to happen."

His reaction to a comment at dinner that he was perhaps the last great figure in the advertising world:

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