David Ogilvy’s 5 Lists For Better Writing, More Money And Great Sex

“Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals”
– David Ogilvy


DAvid Ogilvy lists


We love advertising, the sensitive cultural wallpaper cooked up by Mad Men. On September 7th, 1982, David Ogilvy (23 June 1911 – 21 July 1999) sent the following memo to all employees at his agency Ogilvy & Mather.

How to Write

The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well. Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

1. Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

2. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.

3. Write the way you talk. Naturally.

4. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

5. Never use jargon words like reconceptualizedemassificationattitudinallyjudgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

6. Never write more than two pages on any subject.

7. Check your quotations.

7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.

8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

1o. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.David

Ogilvy loved a list. Here are a more to consider.

If you want to be a leader, you need:

1. High standards of personal ethics

2. Big people, without pettiness.

3. Guts under pressure, resilience in defeat.

4. Brilliant brains — not safe plodders.

5. A capacity for hard work and midnight oil.

6. Charisma — charm and persuasiveness.

7. A streak of unorthodoxy — creative innovators.

8. The courage to make tough decisions.

9. Inspiring enthusiasts — with trust and gusto.

10. A sense of humor.


Series of print ads that Ogilvy & Mather Direct published in the 1960s and 1970s.

From a series of print ads that Ogilvy & Mather Direct published in the 1960s and 1970s.


If you want to be creative and captain a happy ship:

1. Always be fair and honest in your own dealings; unfairness and dishonesty at the top can demoralize [a company].

2. Never hire relatives or friends.

3. Sack incurable politicians.

4. Crusade against paper warfare*. Encourage your people to air their disagreements face-to-face.

5. Discourage secrecy.

6. Discourage poaching.

7. Compose sibling rivalries.


If you need to know who to recruit:

The paramount problem you face is this: advertising is one of the most difficult functions in industry, and too few brilliant people want careers in advertising.

The challenge is to recruit people who are able to do the difficult work our clients require from us.

1. Make a conscious effort to avoid recruiting dull, pedestrian hacks.

2. Create an atmosphere of ferment, innovation and freedom. This will attract brilliant recruits.

3. If you ever find a man who is better than you are — hire him. If necessary, pay him more than you pay yourself.


How to spot talent:

The management of manpower resources is one of the most important duties of our office heads. It is particularly important for them to spot people of unusual promise early in their careers, and to move them up the ladder as fast as they can handle increased responsibility.

There are five characteristics which suggest to me that a person has the potential for rapid promotion:

1. He is ambitious.

2. He works harder than his peers — and enjoys it.

3. He has a brilliant brain — inventive and unorthodox.

4. He has an engaging personality.

5. He demonstrates respect for the creative function.

If you fail to recognize, promote and reward young people of exceptional promise, they will leave you; the loss of an exceptional man can be as damaging as the loss of an account.

*The ‘Great Sex’. Well, if in doubt, sex always sells.

Via: Lists Of Note, The Unpublished David Ogilvy

Would you like to support Flashbak?

Please consider making a donation to our site. We don't want to rely on ads to bring you the best of visual culture. You can also support us by signing up to our Mailing List. And you can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For great art and culture delivered to your door, visit our shop.