Advertising 101: What I have Learned

I have always been drawn to advertising and have always wanted to know what it takes to design, build and execute an effective ad. I came across a copywriter by the name of David Ogilvy and he wrote a book Ogilvy on Advertising.

And here is what I have learned.

Do Your Homework

Understanding and researching the product can lead to big ideas that will help increase sales, brand awareness, brand equity, etc. Next, you need to look at what kind of ads that competitors are doing for a product. This not to say that you should be copying approach but rather give you some kind of direction to appeal to your target audience. Once you have the direction you want to take, think about your consumer. Research them, observe them, follow them (don’t follow them, I think it might be illegal). But understand what need you are trying to fulfill, remember marketers do not create the need for the consumer. The consumer creates the need and its the job of the marketer to fulfill that need. Find out what characteristics (attributes) of the product are important to them and run with that idea, it might not lead to anywhere but it will get you going.


Homework is a crucial part to any advertisement and will get your brand out there. But if you do not position it right, all that homework you did just comes back with a nice bright “F” on it and then you are back to square one.  So what exactly is positioning? Well, Mr. Ogilvy defines it as “what the product does, and who is it for?”. I disagree with this definition. Now, I am not saying I am better than ol’ Dave here I just have a different verbiage in mind. Positioning to me is where the product sits within the mind of the consumer. That is what I have been taught and think it sounds pretty good. Take the SAAB car and how it was positioned in Norway. It was positioned as a car for winter and three years later it was voted the best car for Norwegian winters. Remember Volkswagen’s “Think small.” ad campaign?

Brand Image

Brand image is all about personality and the ones with the best personality are the ones that succeed in the market place. Think about the brands name, packaging, pricing, what kind of style the advertisements uses, and the nature of the product. The advertising about the product should consistent towards what image you are trying to create. Don’t think cheap, think unique. It is all about how you appeal to your consumer, there are multiple kinds of whiskey but only a certain appeal to each one.

Invent Big Ideas

Ogilvy states “big ideas come from the unconscious”. This is because advertising is form of art, you can do all the research you want and is important to get consumers to purchase the product. You have to be able to balance your research and gain as much knowledge of the product in the conscious and then let your unconscious paint the canvas. Ever heard of a place called Merrill Lynch? Their ad is about being “bullish” for America, and are still used as the image for that firm. Watch an advertisement and think did it make me gasp when I first saw it? Do I wish I had thought of it myself? Is it unique? Does it work with the strategy? Will it be used in the long-term?

Make the Product the Hero

There is no such thing as a dull product, you can make printer paper sexy if you use the above mentioned techniques. Think about added value when presented with a product that seems like it will not be interesting to the target audience.

So, what kind of advertisements have you come across or thought of when reading this?

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