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What Was I Thinking?

(by Buzz Knight) A friend of mine some time ago recommended the book Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy (pictured) as a timeless masterpiece that had implications for us today in a crowded media world. Unfortunately, I didnt immediately react to his recommendation and Im kicking myself for not doing it sooner. At the age of 37, with a staff of 2 and no clients he founded his New York based agency, which later merged to form the international company now known as Ogilvy and Mather. If you dont pick up your own copy of the book first issued in 1963 Ill give you a summary of some key takeaways.

1) How to Manage
Ogilvy actually in Chapter One refers to How to Manage an Advertising Agency but the chapter can be called How to Manage a Radio Station. Every year he would assemble his troops and give them a candid report on the operations along with the kind of behavior he admired. One of his great lines in this chapter is I admire people who work with gusto. If you dont enjoy what you are doing, I beg you to find another job. Remember the Scottish proverb, Be happy while youre living, for youre a long time dead.

Another great line in his speech to the brigade which greatly sums up what we would all admire in our radio stations is I admire self- confident professionals, the craftsman who do their jobs with superlative excellence. They always seem to respect the expertise of their colleagues. They dont poach. Besides telling his staff what he expects of them he also speaks about what he expects of himself:
I try to be fair and firm.
I try to sustain the momentum of the agency.
I plan our policies well into the future.
I try to recruit people of the highest quality.
I try to get the best out of every man and women in the agency.

What a great collection of inspiring thoughts to take back to our radio stations.

2) How to Build Great Campaigns
Ogilvy spends a ton of time talking in the book about the craftsmanship needed to make great campaigns, write potent copy, and rise to the top of the tier.His first premise regarding great campaigns that is so beautifully simplistic yet many times we dont practice this in radio is What you say is more important than how you say it.

Ogilvy goes on to say that your most important job is to decide what you are going to say about the product and what benefit you are going to promise.
His other key Great Campaign messages are:
Unless your campaign is built around a great idea it will flop
Give the facts.
You cannot bore people into buying
Make your advertising contemporary
If you are lucky enough to write a good advertisement, repeat it until it stops pulling.

The entire section on Potent Copy should be weaved into the fabric of every one of our production departments at our radio stations. When Ogilvy discusses the Body Copy he advises: When you sit down to write your body copy, pretend that you are talking to the women on your right at a dinner party. She has asked you Im thinking of buying a new car: Which would you recommend? Write your copy as if you were answering the question.

I love this book and its so easy to refer to it on a regular basis for inspiration.

We should strive for that inspiration every day in our radio experience.

As Ogilvy says: tell the truth but make the truth fascinating.

Buzz Knight is the Vice President of Program Development for Greater Media and he can be reached at Knight was named among Best Programmers by Radio Ink Magazine in 2007 and 2010. He has served on the programming subcommittee of the National Association of Broadcasters(NAB) and is currently a member of the Arbitron Radio Advisory Council and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) COLRAM Committee.

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(3/6/2012 10:17:14 AM)
Ogilvy's admonition to write copy as if the speaker were having an organic, real-time, real-life, one-to-one chat with a potential customer is a 1963 recipe for disaster in a new millenium, Radio/TV/Electronic environment.

For those who aren't sure... try it. Then notice the self-experienced, autonomic desire for projectile vomiting.

I am reminded of the similar, moronic admonition for on-air folks to pretend they are speaking to their best friend. How incredibly patronizing do we have to be before we get bitch-slapped by an insulted audience? Oh! Never mind - it's already happening.

- Ronald T. Robinson

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