Reminiscences of David Ogilvy
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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.
A brilliant scholar who did very well in advertising, Francis ran Mather & Crowther, the London firm that helped fund Hewitt, Ogilvy, Benson & Mather, which David set up in New York.
Some years ago, a friend found a copy of “Confessions of an Advertising Man” in a second hand shop here in England.
Inside was a message:
“To Francis – The older I get, the more I admire you – David.”
David far outdid his brother. But we cannot eradicate what we feel as children.
2. He worried constantly about money
Shortly after I got to know him, I visited him at Chateau Touffou with my wife.
I was overwhelmed, to say the least. It is one of France’s loveliest chateaux.
“What a glorious place,” I said to David.
“Have you any idea how much it costs to run?” he replied before lamenting how much it cost to put on a new roof.
No matter how famous or celebrated he became, he never lost his fear of poverty.
He rang me up one day around 1992 saying, “I’m terribly worried about money. Do you think we could do some seminars together? What about getting me some speaking engagements?”
I was astounded, though obviously very flattered and said, “David, look—don’t worry. Someone will always pay for you to cast a cloak of respectability over their activities.”
His money fears made him very stingy in small ways.
When I made the video with him in Paris, he kept bumming cigarettes off the cameraman.
Afterwards he invited me to lunch. Followng the meal, he asked the waiter, “Est-ce-que vous prenez American Express?” (“Do you take American Express?”) The waiter replied, “Non, monsieur.”