David Ogilvy Outlines His Weaknesses in This 1970s-Era Memo

Legendary Adman Was Afraid of Flying

By Published on .

In 1979, Tom Lentz was going through the Ogilvy account management training program. At the time, David Ogilvy was still involved with the agency that bore his name, but his presence was felt, more than actually seen, "mostly as memos from Château de Touffou," Mr. Lentz recently told Ad Age.

Still, from time to time Mr. Ogilvy left the French countryside and dropped in on the New York office.
As one would expect, such state visits caused a bit of excitement in the offices. Preparations were made, memos were sent, even if said memos (such as the one seen here) were simply to remind employees not to be shy around the Big Man.

Mr. Ogilvy "loved talking with folks he passed in the hall, asking, 'Who are you … and what are you working on?" remembered Mr. Lentz. Now retired, Mr. Lentz worked on Owens-Corning, Dove and Schaefer while at Ogilvy before moving on to Kenyon & Eckhardt and Benton & Bowles, then to the client side.

That October, Mr. Ogilvy not only stopped by the office, he stopped in on the training program.

"David Weiss, [the] management supervisor who ran the training program that year, had D.O. come and speak to our account management class," Mr. Lentz explained. "After his talk, he asked for questions. One young female trainee asked, 'Mr. Ogilvy, what are your weaknesses?' (I don't think any of the guys would have dared asked that.) To which he said he didn't have any. A few weeks after that meeting, we trainees received a note from D.O. in which he said he does have weaknesses."

In the memo sent to Mr. Weiss -- and reproduced above -- Mr. Ogilvy wrote: "My answer was perfunctory. Here is a better one." He then listed 12 weaknesses (that were later republished in the office newsletter, The Flagbearer).

Among Mr. Ogilvy's self-described weak points: "I am afraid of flying and go to ridiculous lengths to avoid it"; "I am candid to the point of indiscretion"; and "Like everyone of my age, I talk too much about the past."

Most Popular
In this article: