Launching a new series of quick, no-frills book reviews to recommend the hottest marketing, advertising and business titles to add to your Kindle (or shelf, if you’re a traditionalist). And what a better way to begin than with the Father of Advertising himself? Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy is a comprehensive guide to create advertising that sells. Because “if it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

David Ogilvy knew a thing or two about advertising. Founder of global agency Ogilvy & Mother and widely known as the Father of Advertising, he was the mind behind some of the world’s most popular campaigns of brands like Dove, Rolls-Royce, Shell from the 1950s onwards. It comes as no surprise that this best-seller about his life as an advertiser is packed with timeless insights.

Ogilvy On Advertising is a journey into the art of advertising, covering topics like how to come up with great adverts, how to run an agency, how to write successful copy, how to create world-class TV commercials and what the future holds for the advertising industry (spoiler: most predictions are absolutely spot on… and the title was first published in 1983). The book is packed with real-life examples, exquisite retro adverts, insights into other legendary ad-men like Leo Burnett and Bill Bernbach and some of the author’s most renowned quotes such as “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

My favourite section of the book is about Ogilvy’s almost-scientific approach to create effective advertising. Good adverts are the result of a rigorous process of research, execution and monitoring. And creative thinking is only a single ingredient in a mix that also requires product knowledge, competitor tracking, consumer insights, wide experience and thorough testing. One of the many observations that populate the pages of this precious advertising handbook.

So why should you read it?

If you are studying marketing or advertising, working in the industry or simply passionate about it… Ogilvy On Advertising is simply a must-read.

It puts things into perspective and helps you realise that there are some universal guidelines in advertising that are true today, were true yesterday and will be true tomorrow no matter the industry, category or brand. Get your product front and center, write bold headlines, open with the problem and show the solution, always remember that audiences are ever-changing (as poetically implied by one of the very best quotes from the book, “You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade”). And many more.

Yes, the book was published quite a while ago and sure, some of the chapters might have not aged as well as others but seriously here – every other page contains an example, and excerpt, a hidden gem that makes the whole thing worth reading. It’s hard to trust advertising gurus these days but I’d gladly make an exception for David Ogilvy.

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If you’ve already read Ogilvy On Advertising I’d love to hear what you think.
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Brand Manager by day, I edit AdCoffee by night. And I don't even drink coffee.
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