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Lesson #2: Rewards Are In the Results for Clients
When Ogilvy was working as an AGA salesman selling the company’s cooking stoves door-to-door to Scottish housewives, he learned the importance of the final sale. “No sale, no commission,” he later wrote. “No commission, no eat. That made an impression on me.” It didn’t matter how well he made his pitch to the customers nor how sweetly he might have talked them up; if Ogilvy didn’t make that final sale, he would have nothing to show for all of his hard work.
Ogilvy used to say, “You can’t save souls in an empty church.” It was to this end that he made getting results for his clients his firm’s number one priority. He didn’t want creative ads that people wouldn’t be drawn too, nor did he want well-written ads that weren’t going to be read. What Ogilvy wanted most were ads that were going to bring in the dollars; this, after all, was what he believed to be the true purpose of advertising.
When Ogilvy believed that too many awards for creativity were distracting copywriters from focusing on the final sale, he decided to launch his own award. The David Ogilvy Award was launched to recognize the agency campaign that did the most to improve a client’s sales or reputation. Awarded on a yearly basis, the winner would receive a small red plaque as well as $10,000 in cash. To the losers, Ogilvy would say, “If you, my fellow copywriters or art directors, want to win the award, devote your genius to making the cash register ring.”
Ogilvy understood that what clients wanted was simple: “Great campaigns, with the spark to ignite sales and the staying power to build enduring brands.” It was Ogilvy’s position that his firm existed for the sole purpose of building the business of its clients. “The recommendations we make to them should be the recommendations we would make if we owned their companies, without regard to our own short-term interest,” he said. “This earns their respect, which is the greatest asset we can have.”
Creating an atmosphere in which partnerships with his clients could flourish was a priority for Ogilvy. He thus attached great importance to discretion – “clients don’t appreciate agencies that leak their secrets” – and never took credit for his clients’ successes – “to get between a client and the footlights is bad manners.” While his agency always took pride in its work, Ogilvy’s clients were always given the final say. After all, “It is their money,” he said.
Ogilvy once found himself talking to a British Cabinet Minister about increasing the budget for British Travel advertising in the U.S. “Why does any American in his senses spend his vacation in the cold damp of an English summer when he could equally well bask under Italian skies?” asked the Minister. “I can only suppose that your advertising is the answer.”
“Damn right,” Ogilvy replied. He knew he got results for his clients and he wasn’t going to pretend otherwise.
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