David's tenets, hatched in the infancy of post-World War II Madison Avenue, must have seemed insightful and relevant decades ago. But do they still hunt today? Would they stretch across nearly 400 offices in 97 countries? Are they still meaningful to more than 10,000 people working in 50 languages?
I sat down and reviewed them and was struck by how most of his words remain relevant for us today. They were wise when he first wrote them. They remain so.
Sure, I can find some little things we disagree on. Like Rule No. 4 (Never use reverse type), or the ever-popular Rule No. 7 ("Start selling in the first frame"). But what is astounding is that when it comes to the really big things, we can still apply and learn from what David preached.
Take brands. David once said, "You have to decide what `image' you want for your brand . . . Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the brand image. It follows that your advertising should consistently project the same image."
He was keenly aware that a product is but a product, but that a brand is the product's personality. It is the "amalgam of many things -- its name, its packaging, its price, the style of its advertising and, above all, the nature of the product itself."
At a time when it is in vogue to talk about the brand and its equity, its image and its value in terms of the balance sheets of the companies that pay to support them, it is comforting to know that O&M has been focusing on this very issue for decades. I can tell you that branding, in ways big and small, is something we've rededicated ourselves to at Ogilvy.
Today we fulfill the brand-building promise with a practice we call Brand Stewardship. We look at our role this way: To provide communications strategies and executions that understand, build and sustain our clients' brands. At the heart of Brand Stewardship is the belief that everything in touch with the consumer must be in touch with the brand.
THE BIG IDEA
So what sells? David wrote, "It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers to get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night."
Last summer I spent a lot of time in the dark "bunker" of the Cannes advertising festival.
Of the thousand or so ads I judged, it was astonishing to me how many were devoid of any idea, much less a big one.
David realized how rare big ideas are. "I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea," he said. "You can count on your fingers the number of advertising campaigns that run even for five years."
These are the superstars, the campaigns that go right on producing results through boom and recession, against shifting competitive pressures and changes of personnel."
THE VALUE OF RESEARCH
David also said that you could increase your chances of success in finding a big idea by paying attention to research. "Research has often led me to good ideas. I have seen ideas so wild that nobody in his senses would dare to use them -- until research found that they worked."
He also cautioned that to be effective, research must be properly applied. "I admit that research is often misused by agencies and their clients. They use research as a drunkard uses a lamp post -- not for illumination but for support."
At Ogilvy today, we apply account planning to get to the consumer insight that will inform, not dictate, our strategy. But looking back, I believe David's faith in research and how he applied it put him 20 years ahead of account planning. He simply predated the term.
HIRING THE BEST
David did not just leave us with advice on how to build brands. He also left us useful hints on how to manage the business in a way that encourages creative thinking. He believed in hiring the best people possible, training them well and staying attuned to ideas, regardless of where they originate.
"Senior people have no monopoly on great ideas, nor do creative people," he said. "Some of the best ideas come from account executives, researchers and others. Encourage this; you need all the ideas you can get."
In terms of hiring, he wrote, "If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs; but if, on the other hand, each of us always hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants." This hasn't changed, nor has the type of person we look for. More from David: "Our industry needs massive transfusions of talent. And talent, I believe, is most likely to be found among nonconformists, dissenters and rebels."
A TRAINING AGENCY
David also reminds us to hire people with a passion for advertising. "If you take my advice, don't get a job in advertising unless it interests you more than anything in the world." I could not agree more. In fact, I find the search for talent in all disciplines to be our most important task. Once we find them, we must push them all to want to contribute creatively.
True to our heritage of being a training agency, we remain committed to preparing our people as best we can. It is an ongoing process at O&M. As David said, "Training should not be confined to trainees. It should be a continuous process and should include the entire professional staff of the agency. The more our people learn, the more useful they can be to our clients."
On O&M's 50th anniversary, both the business and the company are radically different from when David opened the doors. The company is bigger; we've grown to include sister companies in direct marketing, public relations, interactive marketing and sales promotion. In today's global marketplace, our target audience is blinded by media choices and advertising messages. Throughout these changes, however, our respect for and dedication to the creative product has never wavered. It has evolved into an undying commitment to the brand as we strive to fulfill O&M's mission: To be the most valued by those who most value brands.
MAKING WORK FUN
In doing so, it is important to remember that the ad business should be entertaining and that, above all else, people need to get a kick out of doing this for a living. "Make it fun to work in your agency," David said.
"When people aren't having any fun, they don't produce good advertising. Kill grimness with laughter. Encourage exuberance. Get rid of sad dogs who spread gloom."
We agree once again. Thank you, David.
Rick Boyko is president/chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather New York.