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Reminiscences of David Ogilvy

By employee, protégé and later partner, Drayton Bird

February 12, 2013 By Denny Hatch
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Drayton Bird is a brilliant, bald, bodacious Brit. My opinion: He is the savviest direct marketer on the planet today.

No surprise, as Drayton comes well credentialed. His boss, mentor and later partner was David Ogilvy, one of the three 20th century direct marketing colossi (with Claude Hopkins and John Caples).

David Ogilvy (1911-1999) adored direct marketing from his earliest days in business. As he wrote in his masterpiece, “Ogilvy on Advertising”:

One day a man walked into a London agency and asked to see the boss. He had bought a country house and was about to open it as a hotel. Could the agency help him to get customers? He had $500 to spend. Not surprisingly, the head of the agency turned him over to the office boy, who happened to be the author of this book. I invested his money in penny postcards and mailed them to well-heeled people living in the neighborhood. Six weeks later the hotel opened to a full house. I had tasted blood.

Drayton—a colleague in David Ogilvy’s last years—is a living encyclopedia of direct marketing know-how and Ogilvyana. Bird travels the world taking good care of clients and dispensing eight decades of wisdom to anyone that will stump up the fee (or a lunch tab). Last year, I told Drayton if he would jot down some memories of David Ogilvy, not only would I be thrilled, but also so would my readers.

To my delight—and yours—Drayton obliged.

Drayton Bird on David Ogilvy
I regret that I only got to know him when he was quite old, but I was damn lucky to get to know him at all. Even luckier that for some reason he took a shine to me.

As he loved making lists, I thought I would list the chief characteristics I noticed from my time with him to convey how, fascinating, contradictory and unusual he was.

1. He was intensely insecure
This was partly because his family was not at all well off when he was young. Although an old, distinguished Scottish family, they had fallen upon hard times.

But I suspect it was just as much because he felt overshadowed by his brother Francis.


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