On Wednesday this week (9th March), Ogilvy’s LinkedIn account posted a quote from David Ogilvy with the hashtag #WednesdayWisdom. The quote: “The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be”. The comments section that follows features remarks like “It depends if the information is interesting and relevant” and “I think the information should come in a tactical way (unlike a detailed statement of account like a history book) that gives birth to inquisitiveness among the TG (target group)”. These comments are accurate, if slightly obvious. However, they do not question the underlying presumption in the Ogilvy quote that there is one way to do advertising. David Ogilvy was a brilliant writer. His Hathaway ads? Excellent. They were enticing, informative and contained a dollop of mystery (how did the man in the Hathaway shirt lose his eye?). However, Ogilvy was writing print ads, embedded in text-rich magazines and newspapers. These long-copy ads worked because people were sitting down to read long-form articles: de facto, they were receptive to circuitous, descriptive pieces of prose.
Particularly with digital media, this is not the case. People hop from short article to video to podcast. They flit around the web, from newsfeeds to blogs. It is a spikier, less restive form of engagement. Now there may be apologists who interpret the word “informative” in the Ogilvy quote loosely, as meaning informative (by whatever means – verbal, visual etc) of the personality of a brand. However, if you read Ogilvy’s books, this is clearly not what he means. He means words. Lots of words.
One of my favourite ads from the last few years is 3’s Sing It Kitty from 2014, created by Wieden + Kennedy. It is completely uninformative. It tells you next to nothing about 3, and what it does tell you is told obliquely. And yet it is deeply effective. It conveys a clear sense of 3 as a brand (fun, iconoclastic) and of its commitment to mobile internet (something that it has championed since it came to market). In an age of short engagement, emphasis on visuals and peer-to-peer sharing, it is unwise to follow David Ogilvy’s advice to the letter.