It ain’t whatcha say…

David Ogilvy was almost certainly  the most articulate man the advertising world has ever seen. When I was collating my book of advertising quotes, Smoke and Mirrors, more came from Ogilvy than any other commentator. I got to 125 and was still climbing. This was already 8% of my total quotes.

He wrote five books. Other books were written about him. He wrote thousands of articles, memos and letters, and incredible pearls of wisdom dripped from every one.  I realised that if I didn’t put a stop to it, I would be taken to court accused of unfair usage. So I did.

But that’s not the point of this story. The point is that Ogilvy was so articulate that everything he said was accepted as the unquestionable, authoritative last word on the subject. But he often contradicted himself.

Here is one of his obiter dicta: “What you say in advertising is more important than how you say it.” Sounds good. Sounds right. But it’s one of the most controversial statements ever made about advertising. Dozens of the highest authorities in the land would disagree. As the irrepressible Louis Armstrong put it: “It ain’t whatcha say, it’s the way howcha say it.”

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About Tony

Tony Koenderman is a seasoned journalist who has spent the last 28 years concentrating on writing about marketing and advertising. He is associate editor of Finweek, to which he contributes a weekly section on the marketing business. He is also editor and co-publisher of Tony Koenderman’s AdReview, an annual review of the current conditions and state of advertising and marketing in South Africa.

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