The King of Madison Avenue | Kenneth Roman

Summary of: The King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy and the Making of Modern Advertising
By: Kenneth Roman


Embark on an exhilarating journey through the life and legacy of David Ogilvy, the trailblazing adman who revolutionized the world of modern advertising. In ‘The King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy and the Making of Modern Advertising,’ author Kenneth Roman takes us through Ogilvy’s humble beginnings, his meteoric rise and his enduring mark on the advertising industry. This book summary offers an insightful look at Ogilvy’s life, examining his outsider status, admiration for simplicity, belief in the power of brands, distinctive communication style, and unwavering commitment to his principles. Discover the man behind the birth of the Big Idea and learn how Ogilvy became a celebrated figure in the world of advertising.

The Rise of David Ogilvy

In 1948, David Ogilvy arrived in New York to launch his advertising agency, despite never having written an ad before. Within five years, he had become the most discussed and publicized adman of his generation and his fame reached beyond the US and UK. Ogilvy’s innovative style and emphasis on the importance of brands broke traditions and he popularized the “Big Idea.” Despite avoiding confrontation, Ogilvy’s stern memos after every meeting were well known. His most significant contribution was his belief that nothing in marketing mattered as much as a brand.

The Unlikely Rise of David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy, an immigrant Englishman from a Scottish paternal line and Irish maternal family, became a brand unto himself and a game-changer in Madison Avenue advertising. His early life was characterized by being an outsider, scholarship struggles, and poor performance in school. However, despite being expelled from Oxford, Ogilvy brought salesmanship and good taste together in American advertising.

Ogilvy’s Marketing Genius

David Ogilvy, after a failed culinary career, turned to his older brother Francis for guidance. Francis, a star athlete and scholar, helped Ogilvy secure a position at Mather & Crowley, a London advertising agency, where his success in selling the revolutionary Aga Cooker led to his writing of “The Theory and Practice of Selling the Aga Cooker,” showcasing Ogilvy’s marketing genius. Ogilvy became an account executive in 1938 and was sent to the US to study advertising. He fell in with the right crowd and returned to England eager to relocate to America, where he would make his name as an influential figure in advertising.

Ogilvy’s Hollywood Breakthrough

David Ogilvy, while working with pollster George Gallup in Hollywood, introduced a new service – pretesting movies by polling audiences at screenings. From 1939 to 1942, Ogilvy worked for Gallup, writing numerous reports, and revolutionized the movie business. He discovered that “people under 30 bought 65% of all tickets, and people under 20 accounted for half of that number,” a concept that remains relevant today. Ogilvy emerged as a pioneer and strong proponent of market research through his time with Gallup.

The Secret Life of David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy’s life as a spy and intelligence analyst during World War II, helping British and American agencies gather vital economic information.

In this book, readers discover a little-known aspect of the acclaimed advertising guru David Ogilvy’s life. In 1942, Ogilvy joined British military intelligence under the leadership of the flamboyant Sir William Stephenson who was the model for James Bond. Due to his asthma and delicate health, Ogilvy could not participate in combat, so his employer assigned him to study economic information about Latin America and to generate American popular support for England. Ogilvy’s expertise as an intelligence analyst contributed to the establishment of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the first US spying agency. Despite his impressive achievements, Ogilvy never boasted or wrote about his time as a spy.

The Life and Career of David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy, a World War II veteran, initially settled in the Amish country of Pennsylvania but ultimately moved back to New York due to his love for advertising. He became known for his “Thirty-Nine Rules” and theory that the “basic selling proposition” is the backbone of every advertisement. In 1948, he co-founded the agency Hewitt, Ogilvy, Benson & Mather, Inc. and put $6,000 into the start-up, the smallest amount invested. Ogilvy’s advertising campaigns for Guinness beer, Sunoco Oil, and Chase National Bank were highly successful. He also gained a loyal client in Helena Rubinstein, who remained with the agency for 16 years until she retired at 90 years old. Ogilvy believed in respecting the intelligence of the consumer and not insulting them.

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