Business book reviews: Confessions of an advertising man

Technical PR, Engineering PR, Industrial PR, Manufacturing PRContinuing my series of book reviews about books that haven’t been published recently (see also Martin Lukes; who moved my Blackberry?) I’ve been reading David Ogilvy’s seminal Confessions of an advertising man of late. It’s a great insight into a bygone era of advertising, in which almost all of Ogilvy’s clients were peers of the realm, but, despite this, still relevant.

What’s more, this book about advertising is relevant to the PR industry and to anyone running a small business. Actually it’s quite relevant to anyone running any business of any size.

Firstly though, its significance for PRs lies not only in its insights on positioning but also in its wonderful chapter on copy writing. The section on headline writing is particularly pertinent. I won’t reproduce these guidelines here in full but, let’s just say, fans of headlines that are little more than clever if irrelevant puns will not be delighted.

In terms of running an agency, or indeed a business of any kind, Ogilvy’s thoughts on creating a company culture are still important. Ignoring the fact that, due to being written by an ad exec in the sixties, they are rigidly male orientated, many of the tips in the book are still useful.

For instance, Ogilvy believes that you get nowhere in business without manners. He writes, “We detest office politicians, toadies, bullies and pompous asses. We abhor ruthlessness.” In terms of setting the standard for an agency culture he isn’t far short of the mark here.

So, in summary, Confessions of advertising man may not be new but it’s still worth a plane ride or two of anyone’s time. Now, I’m off to the House of Lords to see if I can bag a few more clients…

PS – My only complaint might be that, if one insists on lambasting the readability of type when set in reverse (a light colour printed on a dark background) in a book it might be an idea to not set the type on the cover using exactly that technique. I should revert to the more attractive sixties cover which featured a haggard Ogilvy smoking a pipe if I were them…

Richard Stone

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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