In my first experience in media sales, selling radio, I was hired at the same time as four other people. It’s what’s commonly known as a “cattle call.”
In this case, you throw five rookies up against the wall (unbeknownst to me) and see who sticks after a period of time. In some circles today, this is still the hiring methodology, unfortunately. I was determined to make it. I had two young children to feed and a wife at the time. I was highly motivated. Failure was not an option. I already thought I was paying to work there -- drawing $100 a week against collections and a $75 gas allowance. With no list, and filled with packages to sell, I didn’t know any better at the time. Fifteen percent commission -- that’s what I cared about.
During my initial training period – i.e. no official training period -- I was told to go get the Bible. Jeez, I already thought this was going to be a tough job, but maybe this was going to really be tough as I had to read the Bible before sales calls? I told the sales manager I already owned a Bible and, as ritual of mine, I always carried it with me. He told me to go get “the bible,” the one written by David Ogilvy, who he said was considered the “Father of Advertising” – the next thing to God in the field of advertising. David Ogilvy was a principle at Ogilvy and Mather Advertising Agency in New York City. Since this was 1986, and Ogilvy’s book Ogilvy On Advertising had come out in 1983. It was still on the bookshelves, where it remains today, some 30 years later – and for good reason. It’s the first book you should own if you’re in the business of advertising. I always remember the Rolls-Royce ad he came up with that was featured in his book: "At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock."
A couple weeks ago, I came across at article from Sara Weissman who wrote 5 Ogilvyisms That Still Apply To Digital Media. It of course caught my eye. I think the “5 things” go far beyond what still apples to digital media -- I think it applies to all media in today’s advertising world. How could some of the things he wrote some 30-50 plus years ago still be relevant in today’s advertising world? Let’s take a look at those five.
1. “In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.” I see this all the time in the field talking to business owners. They have a great idea, yet haven’t figured out a way to sell it. In today’s world, you can have the best Website on the Net, but you better know how to sell it otherwise it’s cannon fodder and you lose money. There are a lot of good local media websites out there but you still have to sell what you create. Hire a salesforce and train the hell out of them. Nothing matters until you sell it. Simple.
2. “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.” Always keep testing your advertising and what you create. Come up with some new things and some new ways to present your ideas. In many cases, if they don’t buy you because you came up with something new and above the clutter, they weren’t going to buy you anyway. At least now they are talking about you. Here’s an example from the film industry that maybe we should borrow a few lessons from: Enormous, the live-action pilot based on the graphic novel of the same name, aired on the YouTube multichannel network, but before they make a final commitment to a series, Machinima is studying audience reaction to it. “We need to be able to test things,” said Andy Shapiro, Machinima’s VP of development. “We need to be able to get our audience integrated early on. Hearing what people are looking for will help guide us a little bit more.” He indicated that this was a way of maintaining costs and involving the audience. Ben David Grabinski, the pilot’s director, stated, “I have a million ideas and I’d love to just jump into it. …But the thing that’s fascinating is that there are a lot of opportunities dictated by the response. It’s different than anything I’ve done before.” Same holds true for your advertising. If you’re not out there testing it, what you create could roll out a huge disaster or you just keep it on the shelf and never know if it could have been a great idea or not.
3. “Big ideas are usually simple ideas.” I see this a lot: Overthinking an idea and then it gets bogged down in production and stalls and never gets done; or sits there while the market demand passes it by. Just think, that script for Dallas Buyers Club was on the table for 15 years or more. Overthinking stops great ideas in their tracks.
4. “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.” I do think some of the best ideas come when you’re in the back of the building cracking some jokes with your co-workers and then your next big idea develops. Remember, there’s a reason focus follows fun, not the other way round.
5. “Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.” On jargon, I think Robin Jones, content manager of Castanet.net in British Columbia says it best: “Jargon drives me nuts! As soon as I hear it, I shut down. In my opinion, those who try to use jargon are only ‘playing’ business. It's not how real business people talk. If they do, I immediately think they're hiding something.”
If you don’t have the bible on advertising, go get one. It’s like going to church and you’ve never read the bible before: it’s hard to makes sense of it all, and the same holds true with advertising without Ogilvy’s book. David Ogilvy had just $6,000 in his account and some big ideas when his new agency Ogilvy, Benson and Mather started in 1949.
Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group International and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.luceperformancegroup.com. Sean's new book The Liquid Fire can be found on Amazon.com.