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10 David Ogilvy Quotes that Could Revolutionize Your Blogging

Posted By Darren Rowse 2nd of February 2011 Featured Posts, Writing Content 0 Comments

__ShSCuaESlVk_TODWUMK3g8I_AAAAAAAAAec_wUrCCc_jc3I_s400_david-ogilvy.jpgThis week, I’ve been reading The King of Madison Avenue—an interesting biography of ad man David Ogilvy (aff).

I’ve always been fascinated with Ogilvy and see a lot in what he’s done as relevant to bloggers. So here’s some of his more famous quotes, with a few thoughts on how they relate to our medium.

1. “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”

How appropriate—both for internet marketers (who are often known for tactics that treat those they target as morons) and bloggers (who can at times talk down to readers).

The idea of treating your reader as someone who you value, as someone incredibly special to you, will take bloggers a long way.

Another Ogilvy quote that relates: “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.

2. “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”

I’ve been pondering this one a lot over the last 24 hours and it’s true—some of my best blog posts and projects have emerged out of light-hearted tweets or comments in conversations to friends.

31 Days to Build a Better Blog came about as I laughed with a friend about how bloggers needed a daily devotion (similar to what I grew up with as a good Christian boy reading Every day with Jesus) to keep their blogs on track.

7 Digital Camera Predators and How to Keep them at Bay started as a friend and I joked about things that conspired to kill our cameras.

It’s often the crazy little ideas that we have that first make us laugh that do best. If they get some kind of reaction in us (even one that makes us giggle at how silly they are), they’re likely to also get a reaction from others.

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

Think big! While there’s also something to be said for having realistic expectations about what you can achieve with a blog, there’s nothing wrong with having big dreams and aiming to make them a reality.

It can be a bit of a balancing act, but if you aim a little higher you might just find yourself achieving things with your blog that you might not have thought possible.

4. “I have a theory that the best ads come from personal experience. Some of the good ones I have done have really come out of the real experience of my life, and somehow this has come over as true and valid and persuasive.”

If there’s one quote in this selection that most rings true for me it is this one. The posts that I’ve written that have emerged out of real experience, pain, excitement, heartache, and life are the ones that time and time again hit the mark with readers.

Tell stories, share your successes and failures, be yourself, and let your own personal voice come out. You’ll find readers respond in a personal way, too.

5. “I don’t know the rules of grammar… If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.”

This might get up the noses of those of you who are a little more particular about grammar (and I do thank you for your continued daily emails pointing out my mistakes), but I think there’s something powerful about this.

Write your blog posts in the way that you’d actually speak to them if they were in the chair opposite you. Use language that communicates most clearly with them—even when it might not be the Queen’s English.

Of course there comes a point where grammar and spelling errors can and do get in the way of communicating clearly with readers. Don’t be lazy—the point is to know your readers and communicate in a way that’s relevant to them.

6. “Good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product.”

I’m not sure I agree 100% with this as I do know bloggers who make good livings from writing about things that they have no real interest in or passion for. However, most successful blogs (and by that I mean more than profit, and am looking at blogs that connect with readers and help build a blogger’s reputation) are written by people who have something genuine to say about a topic they believe in.

While it’s possible to create a profitable blog on something you have no interest or belief in (by gaming the search engines for example), those kinds of blogs are never going to create a connection with readers or do much to raise your profile in an industry.

Conversely, bloggers who create blogs that come from genuine interest and passion for topics create connections with readers that have flow-on effects that lead to all kinds of wonderful opportunities.

7. “If you ever have the good fortune to create a great advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This is irritating, but don’t let it worry you; nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else’s advertising.”

There’s nothing more heartbreaking for a new blogger when you see your content being scraped onto another blog or your intellectual property being used by others without credit.

I still get upset by this from time to time, however there’s one thing that I’ve noticed despite hundreds of sites each day republishing my work without permission and/or credit. Nobody actually seems to read those blogs.

The key to successful blogging is unique and useful information. People who simply regurgitate what you write, or even repost it word for word, either eventually give up (because nobody reads it) or get caught out (and stop in disgrace).

While there are times when I’ve chased down others who blatantly steal my stuff without credit (there is a line) I find it much more beneficial to spend my time creating more great content than policing how people use what I’ve already produced.

Focus the bulk of your time upon producing and being the best you can be. This will have more positive impact upon your business than the negative tasks of stopping spammers and thieves stealing your old ideas.

8. “First, make yourself a reputation for being a creative genius. Second, surround yourself with partners who are better than you are. Third, leave them to go get on with it.”

This one might be a little more appropriate for advanced bloggers who’ve established themselves and are looking to take things to the next level.

There does come a time in most businesses where a solo entrepreneur needs to think about how to expand and grow beyond their own capacity to give their business personal attention.

There are only so many hours in the day. Expanding your team and/or partnering with others is one option to consider. If you do it, look for people whose skills complement and exceed yours, then get out of their way.

9. “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.”

David was big on testing, and his effectiveness as a communicator improved dramatically as a result.

It’s amazing what you learn when you test different elements on a blog: simple tweaks of headlines, changes in calls to action, different placements of ads, tracking how design changes improve conversion of your objectives … the list could go on.

Great bloggers don’t just write content—they watch to see how people interact with it (and their blog) and use what they learn to improve their future efforts.

10. “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. “

The headline or title of your blog post is the most effective way to get people to read the rest of your post. If you don’t understand—and more importantly, implement—this principle, you’re going to miss out on a lot of readers.

Headlines draw people in, whether they see them in search results, on Twitter, in RSS feeds, or on your blog itself.

Ogilvy is famous for his advice on this: the purpose of your headline is to get people to read your first line. The purpose of your opening line is to get people to read the next one. So invest time and energy into your titles (and opening lines).

Here’s a related quote: “The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat.’ Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.”

What’s your favorite Ogilvy quote?

There are a lot more David Ogilvy quotes. Do you have a personal favorite?

Here’s one more that I personally don’t live by, but which I know for a fact a couple of other well-known and quite successful bloggers live by.

“Many people—and I think I am one of them—are more productive when they’ve had a little to drink. I find if I drink two or three brandies, I’m far better able to write.”

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  1. This collection of quotes are definitely concise and on point! It’s amazing that I have come across so many others who insist putting out garbage when all you need to do is be honest, be passionate and have a sense of humour!

  2. As an ex Ogilvian, I love all his quotes. One of my personal faves: Pursue knowledge like a pig pursues truffles. The pursuit of knowledge is never ending.
    As a Direct Marketeer, I love the testing one. Obviously.
    As a consumer, I like “The consumer is not a moron” How true yet easily overlooked.

  3. Great post Darren! I am launching a new blog this month and these quotes are gold. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. This guy is brilliant. Read his book “Ogilvy on Advertising” years ago, and learned one heck of a lot of things from it. “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.” Priceless advice. If you’re going to go, go big.

  5. So we have to try be ourselves and to do everything with love. Furthermore, we don’t have to think for our job as an obligation but as a passion which gives us wings – then the results will be fantastic.

  6. Alex Weissner says: 02/04/2011 at 3:10 am

    Thanks for sharing! Love all these quotes.

  7. Yes its like a newspaper, the headline (and maybe photo) counts and sellsthe paper

  8. Very solid advice here. I don’t blog for money but there are still many good take aways here for even non-commercial applications like mine.

  9. If the consumer (who’s no moron) is your wife then why aren’t women the ones at the top of the highest paid agencies making the business and creative decisions on how to speak to their peers? Seems we may be better equipped to speak “in the vernacular” and “to consumers” if we are like them. Hmmmm….what’s wrong with this picture?

    • Whoever said big agencies know how to advertise well?

      David Ogilvy spent his life hammering the virtues of direct response, and today his agency is like all the others — making clueless advertisements that try to amuse instead of sell.

  10. I like quote #10. I agreed the title draws your reader to the subject of the article. It makes you excited to read more. These quotes are the blueprints to success with article writing.

    I appreciate your sharing them.

    Thank You

  11. Hi,

    10. “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

    Make sense. You have almost make your first dollar.

    Try it yourself.

  12. you’re a brilliant men. You always have a great and unique idea for tuning us as a blogger that still have much learn from great people like you…, thank u for sharing..

  13. Wow I have just started reading this as well about a week ago and although only 15 pages in it’s already leaving a serious impression on me and you could probably have writtem this post after 1 chapter. Amazing how it stands up as being relevant in an industry that is meant to be so fast paced and constantly changing!

    Love number 8 here but many people find it one of the hardest things to do. Smart guy who has a huge business once said to me that he goes in to the office and makes it his job to delegate every single task he can think of to people than are smarter than him. Sounds very easy but most people love being in control of every little detail!

  14. Never heard of David Ogilivy until now but schmuck he ain’t. Good soild words of advice with a pinch of wisdom. Just goes to show that some of the best ideas lie in the past until they are ready to come round again or find a new medium or form to represent them i.e. Norman Vincent Peale and Dale Carnegie and Napoleon Hill. Good ideas never die, they just get resurrected. Wonder what you think has been the best resurrection to date Darren?

  15. The ethics of Oglivy are shining examples –

    “Advertising is only evil when it advertises evil things.”

    “It is flagrantly dishonest for an advertising agent to urge consumers to buy a product which he would not allow his own wife to buy.”

  16. I really like the quote about headlines (and the opening line, etc.). This is something I struggle with. I find it incredibly difficult to write a post title that is catchy while also containing appropriate key words. Sometimes I just give up and write something simple. Glad to see this post of yours because it reminded me that I really need to spend more time on my post titles and opening lines!

  17. This is an excellent article with great tips. David Ogilivy expertise shows the limit to a person’s own accomplishment are all self-imposed!

  18. Pandrang Row says: 02/05/2011 at 2:56 pm

    I’m ex-Ogilvy and I originally joined because I revered the man. There are so many quotations from David that stay with me and won’t leave. I’ll always want to work with “Gentlemen with brains.” I still believe that you should “cultivate your eccentricities when you’re young, that way when you’re old they won’t think you’re going ga-ga.” That an advertisement (or a blog) without a Big Idea will “pass by like a ship in the night.” Or that you should avoid “skating on the slippery surface of irrelevant brilliance.”

    I had the good fortune to meet David in my second year at Ogilvy, Benson & Mather and it left an indelible mark. Apart from being prescient, he was truly a great man.

  19. I like how blunt and realistic these quotes are. Thanks for sharing.

  20. David was the original thinke rin so many thinks to do with advertising. A Giant amongst imsects. And certainly capabale of denting his universe.

    I nver sure about the quote where he calls his wife a Moron :-) but i get the point.

    There so much we can learn in communicating with clients and studyig his ideas.

    Thanks for reminding me to reread about his work.


  21. thanx for the post man. Great quotes. I am making little money today off blogging because of this site. keep uo the good job.!!!!!

  22. I’ve put a Ogilvy quote in my blog before reading your post- how strange. I noted that David pointed out the test for sex is relevance while referring to a minor political scandal in the UK.

    I would recommend Ogilvy on advertising, it explains all his main rules and goes through demonstrations with Ads like the ‘Lemon’ VW ad.

  23. Nice post. great quotes

  24. “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife”

    … damn, to have come up with a line as singlular and grounded as that! Sort of like opening guitar riff in “I Ain’t Superstitious” simple, perfect and unforgettable.

    I’m sure someone has already done it, but I would like to offer my own variation on this quote:
    ‘there are no stupid questions, just your questions”

    Excellent Post.

  25. What awesome insight, I didnt think you could possibly link the king of advertisings with
    blogging of all things..
    I stedy This mans work for years and use it as a guide for offline marketing.
    Like when I do advertorials in newspapers, my postcards, my salesletters

    But I never thought to add them to blogging.

    You just gave me a eureka moment, and now I have like 20 blogpost to go prepare for
    good stuff as always,


  26. All of these are applicable to blogging. I try not to write anything that my wife or children couldn’t read. They’ll sneak in and read it anyway. Also, #10 is really important online, because people see your headline in the SERPS without the body copy there to support it. So, they make a decision to click over to your site based on the headline.

  27. Darren, GREAT collection of his quotes. Very inspiring! Thank you!

    This is a nice reminder to think outside the box and simply add the human touch, be yourself and have fun! People will see this!

    Printing this as we speak and adding to my desk! :)


  28. As someone who started out in marketing in London, back in the early 1980’s, I had the good fortune to work with a number of Ogilvy’s colleagues / students.

    It’s nice to see you and Brian Clark introduce David’s work to a new generation of marketers.

    Kudos, Darren!

  29. Thank you for these. You’ve surprised me with a few quotes I’d not seen before, e.g. ‘The best ideas come as jokes.’ I would have expected that from Bill Bernbach rather than David Ogilvy.

  30. Brilliant post but Rule # 5 is very much applicable in today’s market. And completely agrees with darren that Write blog posts in the way that you’d actually speak to them if they were in the chair opposite you. Use language that communicates most clearly with them.

  31. Thank you for saying this! I’ve read many of an “expert” blogger recommend that I treat my readers like DOGS!

    I didn’t like that at all. I’ve been treating my readers like human beings and that is why I’ve become so successful. My readers are moved by my stories and by my posts because they see the humanity in me and I see the humanity in them.

    Part of that is being open and vulnerable, and like you said here, you should not worry about people stealing from you. They can steal the golden eggs, but they can’t steal the goose that lays them–and that’s YOU. You will continue to produce excellent content. You are the secret, really, not your content.

    No one can make successful business by stealing content, it just doesn’t work.

    Thank you Darren for another AWESOME post. Thanks also for setting the record straight: treat your readers like human beings who deserve your LOVE and RESPECT.

    • Bubba D says: 02/12/2011 at 3:18 am

      I find that amazing that other “expert” bloggers treat your readers like dogs! I agree with you that you should treat them with respect and as human beings. To me, if you treat them like dogs, they’ll either bite you or piss on your leg. I can do without either one.


  32. I’m loving item No. 6 – “Good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product.” I think that this has something to do with love or passion — and you can’t be great at anything without these. Thanks for sharing these quotes, I may have to post them on my Twitter feed. Cheers!

  33. I like #5 & #7. I am not a native English speaker so I worry a bit about the way I write but at the end of the day its communication that matters than how it was communicated. You’ve clarified this through #5.
    Also agree that a brand can’t be imitated :) Interesting post…

  34. Hi Darren,

    I couldn’t agree more with point number one. I’ve met a lot of online business coaches who treat their subscribers like a one night stand (forgive the term). It turns me off big time and I hit the unsubscribe button without second though. Then I’ve met people, bloggers who really respect you and I can’t help but say “that’s someone worth modeling.”

    Thank you for being a good example. You are aware of how much influence you have and you put it into good use. If the world wide web has Tim Berners Lee, the blogosphere has Darren Rowse.


  35. These quotes can’t help remind me of my favorite one that was posted on the wall in my house by my dad since I was little. “If you can’t dazzle em with brilliance, baffle em with bullsh!t” always found that to be amusing.

    • Bubba D says: 02/12/2011 at 3:16 am


      That quote is actually our motto at work! Being in the communication tech field it does wonders for those who don’t quite understand. Also, my dad and dad-in-law are guru masters of that same quote. Must be an old-guy thing.


  36. I am, actually, more productive when I’ve had something to drink, but that drink would be coffee. ;-)

    I haven’t read up on Ogilvy before – thanks for the motivation to do so!

  37. What I’ve read has really inspired me. Thanks to David who spent time on research. I’ll invite my friends to join me on this site for more info.

  38. I like all the quotes but no 1 is the most interesting for me.. that’s right that we have to serve our reader the best we can do.. They have spent time to dropping by and read our post so, they deserve to get their need..

  39. Bubba D says: 02/12/2011 at 3:13 am

    Loved this! I really like the quotes regarding humor (#2), grammer (#5) and how the consumer is not a moron (#1)…although I feel like I am at times. This really was inspirational and motivating as I am tiptoeing into the shallow waters of blogging. This is inspirational enough to go looking for the diving board. Thanks, Chris! I may have to go get this book. Cheers!

  40. No doubt… really inspiring…

  41. Hey Darren, I like that line which says “the best ideas came as joke”. Great stuff!

  42. great thoughts. eye opening and inspirational. great post. as expected by pro-bloggers.

  43. Some great quotes there. My workshops became much more powerful when I started trying to ‘talk up’ to people i.e. to assume they were more intelligent, switched on and with it than me; and that is the essence of what is in the first quote above.

    Will :)

  44. Great article. As true today as it was back then. Out of all the quotes numbers 10 and 5 stick out to me. Very interesting.

  45. thanks for sharing that. I have seen those before, but it is always good to re-read and remember. Especially (1), (5), (9), (10).

    but i have certainly seen many bloggers and advertisers that need to address number 1 on that list.

  46. The point about the title hurt the most! It’s so true but to me, coming up with a great title is the biggest challenge!

  47. A very interesting and helpful information for all bloggers.
    my favorite qoute is #10.
    thanks for sharing!

  48. Wow. Fantastic quotes. Thanks for sharing!

  49. Does lots of pictures in blog post better?

    btw thanks for sharing that quotes

  50. I used to study advertising in school and David Ogilvy was practically my idol. Thanks for this!

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