“When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’
But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’”
David Ogilvy is recognized as one of the most influential men in modern advertising. When I first began my advertising career I read every book I could find on the topic and upon discovering Ogilvy I soon found myself a disciple of his ideas, methods and message to others committed to this career niche.
I first met the mind of David Ogilvy in his book Confessions of an Advertising Man. Published in 1963 it was one of the many books I found in our library when I entered the adman path in early 1987. What a pleasant surprise when in April 1987 I discovered Ogilvy’s follow-up Ogilvy On Advertising while exploring a bookstore in the bowels of the World Trade Center.
The quote at the top of this blog post comes from the preface of this second Ogilvy book, and it’s meaning is self-evident. Advertising’s aim, in Ogilvy’s view, is to instigate action. The goal is not to have people say, “Oh, that’s a cool ad.” Rather, it’s all about moving people to get off their butts and do something. The objective: Action, not jawboning or personal adulation.
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The real aim of this blog post is to shed light on Demosthenes and a story about his development as an orator. A contemporary of Plato and Aristotle, Demosthenes is acknowledged as the greatest of the ancient Greek orators.
What’s interesting here is that as a youth Demosthenes had a speech impediment. He stuttered. To overcome this handicap he went to the sea, put pebbles in his mouth and practiced giving speeches to the open air. He would also recite verses while running and out of breath. It’s the story of the pebbles that has stuck with me from a public speaking class several decades ago.
What’s striking is that at a very early age he saw the path to influence and took whatever steps necessary to achieve this aim. As for Aeschines, this was Demosthenes’ chief rival. In the quote above, the Philip being referenced is Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.
Two lessons here. First, don’t let your handicaps or shortcomings discourage you from pursuing your dreams. In the case of Demosthenes, he was highly motivated due to an injustice he suffered. What is it you wish to achieve? Are you sufficiently motivated to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve that goal?
Second, the initial lesson David Ogilvy applies this anecdote to is people in the advertising business. So much of what I have seen coming out of ad agencies is designed to get strokes from peers or to win awards. Does it set people in motion to pick up the phone and pull out their wallets, or visit your store?
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One Amazon reviewer of the book had this to say about Ogilvy On Advertising:
“Ogilvy had insight in spades, practical experience, common sense, a passion for research as well as creativity, and above all, a relentless focus on selling. Pick any few paragraphs at random and all those qualities will shine through.”
You can read my own 2008 David Ogilvy commentary here, including 10 ideas from his book.
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I also own David Ogilvy’s third book, an autobiography that is as instructive about life as the others are about advertising. Ogilvy, a Scotsman, initially started his career in the culinary field, and became a chef in Paris. At age 35 he changed careers, moved to America, land of opportunity, and ultimately found work with George Gallup, a stepping stone to Hollywood and ultimately “scientific advertising.” It’s a good read, if you can find it. As a special treat he includes a few of his favorite recipes at the end. Yum.
Is it time to step up your game? Have you gotten into a rut? Have you allowed your motivation to flag because the mountains were higher than you once anticipated? It may be time to renew your strength, and set your sights on those high places again.
As for me, I’m pressing on.
Originally published at pioneerproductions.blogspot.com
Images here are from the public domain.