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Lesson #3: Promote the Principle of Professional Discipline
“Never run an advertisement you would not want your own family to see,” said Ogilvy. “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your own family to read.” He might have been just as focused on creating an ad that would sell, but when it came to exactly how those ads would sell, Ogilvy stood out from the crowd. Whereas much of the advertising industry was, and continues to be focused on the dollars at the end of the road at the expense of anything else, Ogilvy refused to sacrifice his integrity or that of his agency. “You wouldn't tell lies to your own wife,” he told other advertising executives. “Don't tell them to mine.”
Ogilvy didn’t care about being particularly entertaining in his ads. “People don’t buy a new detergent because the manufacturer told a joke on television last night,” he said. Instead, he believed that if people were going to buy a product, they were going to do so because of a promised benefit. And, he was not about to lie about that promise.
When it came to professional discipline, Ogilvy claimed to prefer “the discipline of knowledge to the chaos of ignorance.” It was to this end that he insisted everyone at his agency “pursue knowledge the way a pig pursues truffles.” Advertisements that came out of Ogilvy & Mather were going to be truthful and packed with information about the product.
A key component of promoting integrity and the discipline of knowledge throughout his institution entailed instituting several training programs for young advertising professionals. Ogilvy would codify knowledge into slide and film presentations, which he called Magic Lanterns, and show them to his up and coming staff. “Great hospitals do two things,” he said. “They look after patients, and they teach young doctors. We look after clients, and we teach young advertising people.”
In addition to adequately training his staff, Ogilvy insisted upon treating them with integrity and respect. “Do not summon people to your office - it frightens them,” he said. “Instead go to see them in their offices. This makes you visible throughout the agency. A Chairman who never wanders about his agency becomes a hermit, out of touch with his staff.”
Ogilvy wanted his agency to always be run by the kind of men who command respect, “not phonies, zeros or bastards,” he said. It was in leading by example that Ogilvy was able to maintain high standards of professional discipline in all of his and his agency’s actions.
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