Tell The Truth, But Make It Fascinate

business meeting with whiteboard

While getting my degree in advertising at Portland State University, professors encouraged students to do a lot of extracurricular reading – and provided recommendations. The ones I remember enjoying most were: Lovemarks, How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere by Larry King, The Four Agreements, and How To Win Friends & Influence People.

Among them, another recommendation was David Ogilvy’s Confessions of An Advertising Man, but I never got around to it until last year. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down for a month! Ogilvy (known as the “Father of Advertising” after building his global ad agency) captures the essence of marketing and advertising practices in a way that is visionary, practical, and in alignment, with business philosophies, I have come to believe myself after 12 years in marketing.

The first thing that hit me about Ogilvy is his unrelenting focus on research. In 1938, he cut his teeth in the US working for Gallup’s Audience Research Institute. It is clear from his writing he never stopped making research the foundation of his campaigns (aimed at long-term success): “Never stop testing, and your [business] will never stop improving.”

A second aspect that resonated with me was his repeated advice not to lose sight of the goal to sell. Advertising awards for artistic exceptionalism should take a backseat to KPIs established with clients upfront; usually increasing market share and selling more of the product.

The final piece that sold me on the book’s message was his unrelenting drive for work quality and establishing a genuine partnership with clients: “Tell the truth but make the truth fascinating. You know you can’t bore people into buying your product, you can only interest them into buying it.”

I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed reading Confessions of An Advertising Man, and a part of me is glad I waited to apply real-world experience. It is one I recommend on a regular basis now to anyone interested in the industry.

Do you have any other business book suggestions? Please let me know by reaching out via LinkedIn because I’m certain there are so many out there to leave yet more of an impression on readers.

Lee Sumner – Research Director