David Ogilvy

Is it Time for a New Approach?

August 21st, 2019  | 

Published in Leadership

Learn from the “Father of Advertising”

David Ogilvy

My daughter Jordan, who works in the Chicago office of Ogilvy, will be celebrating her birthday this Saturday. She inspired me to post a quick tip of the hat to one of the most iconic advertisements ever created by agency founder David Ogilvy: The Man in the Hathaway shirt.

Starting Off on the Right Foot
When David Ogilvy first decided to start his own advertising agency, he wanted to do it right. Ogilvy insisted that all advertising for the firm’s clients be researched meticulously to understand consumer buying habits. Furthermore, Ogilvy believed his clients’ customers should be viewed as intelligent and treated with respect. “The customer is not a moron,” he later famously said, “she’s your wife.”

It was Ogilvy’s ad for little-known shirt maker CG Hathaway that put Ogilvy, his agency and Hathaway on the map. 

Ellerton Jette, Hathaway’s president, approached Ogilvy knowing two things:

First, that after 116 years of making quality shirts without building a recognizable brand, something needed to change to boost Hathaway’s sales.

Second, that the Hathaway account would not be a big money-maker for Ogilvy and his fledgling advertising agency. 

Jette promised Ogilvy he would never fire the agency or change the copy in the ads that Ogilvy wrote. As a result, Ogilvy accepted the assignment. 

An Out-of-the-Box Approach
The Hathaway ad copy, written by David Ogilvy, begins, “American men are beginning to realize that it is ridiculous to buy good suits and then spoil the effect by wearing an ordinary, mass-produced shirt.”

While the copy was bold, it was the accompanying photograph that turned heads.

En route to the photography shoot for the company’s print advertisement, Ogilvy stopped at a drug store and purchased a couple of black eyepatches. Once at the shoot, he decided “on a whim” to place an eyepatch on the model. He soon realized that he was “onto something.” When the ad appeared in The New Yorker, the eyepatch created what Ogilvy called “story appeal” and every Hathaway shirt in Manhattan sold within days. Over the next five years, Hathaway’s shirt sales doubled, and the obscure Maine shirt maker became the second largest selling brand of men’s dress shirts.

The ad was selected by Advertising Age as #22 on its list of the greatest campaigns of the 20th century, and David Ogilvy became known as the “Father of Advertising.”

Ask Yourself…
Ogilvy’s out-of-the-box approach can serve as inspiration for today’s leaders. What new approach can you and your team take to attract the attention of prospective customers?

Perhaps the better question to ask is, “What benefit can I offer to those who can help me?”

Happy birthday, Jordan. 

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises leaders of some of the world’s most admired companies, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 200 strategic planning sessions, and he’s delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five continents. His fifth leadership book—How Leaders Decide: A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices—examines 52 of history’s greatest triumphs and tragedies and debuted in April as the #1 new historical reference book on Amazon.

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