Famous Last Words: Ogilvy Revealed
I am forever indebted to David Ogilvy. When the galley proofs of my first direct marketing book—“MILLION DOLLAR MAILING$”—came back from the printer, I sent a set to a chum at Ogilvy & Mather, and it was put in the pouch to Château de Touffou, Ogilvy’s 13th-century mansion, outside of Poitiers, France. Several weeks later, I received a letter from Ogilvy on Touffou stationery praising the book. His lead:
This remarkable book has inspired me to revive my life-long crusade to extricate the direct mail fraternity from the ghetto to which they have always been confined by the advertising generalists. It gives me valuable ammunition—some new, some old.
I told the publisher to plaster the letter—full-size—on the back cover of the book. For a startup author, it doesn’t get any better than that.
For David Ogilvy, direct marketing was his passion from a very early age. As he wrote in “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.
Ogilvy was thrown out of Oxford in 1931 and in the depth of the Depression landed a job as a lowly cook in one of the best hotel restaurants in the world, the Majestic in Paris. After working his way up to world-class chef, he left to sell Aga Cookers—upmarket stoves that were found in the great hotel kitchens and private homes of the rich. He got a job in advertising and moved to the U.S., where he got to know the giants of advertising—John Caples, Claude Hopkins, Leo Burnett, Rosser Reeves and Bill Bernbach, to name a few.