Monday, September 7, 2020

A David Ogilvy Anecdote on Hiring

I believe April 13, 1987 may have been the first time Susie and I went to the World Trade Center in New York City. I remember because the date is inscribed inside the front cover of my copy of Ogilvy on Advertising which I purchased at a bookstore underneath the historic skyscraper.

Earlier that year I had been tapped to create an advertising program for the company I worked for and voraciously read every book on advertising that I could find in our library. David Ogilvy's Confessions of an Advertising Man was so direct and practical that he quickly became my go-to resource. This is why when I saw Ogilvy on Advertising at the World Trade Center I had to have it. He quickly became my guru and this volume my "Bible" of sorts.

The reviews on are invaluable for gaining insights on the books (and other products) displayed there, and this one is spot on.

If you want an overview of the core principles that are true for ALL ad-like communications, this is a must-read. The medium might change, but the principles remain the same -- and nobody knew the principles like David Ogilvy. For those wanting a current view of the ad world -- especially involving internet or social media -- read this book FIRST and then buy any of a number of books on current practices. This will teach you the fundamentals.

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Ogilvy gave us more than advice on advertising and ad copy writing. He also devoted pages to instructing leaders on how to manage a creative team. Creatives are a different kind of animal.

In the midst of all this he shared this story, which applies not only to ad agencies but to businesses of all kinds:

When someone is made the head of an office in the Ogilvy & Mather chain, I send him a Matryoshka doll from Gorky. If he has the curiosity to open it, and keep opening it until he comes to the inside of the smallest doll, he finds this message: If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.

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While reading Philip Norman's biography of Paul McCartney I discovered that John Lennon was faced with an important decision when Paul approached John to become part of Lennon's band, The Quarrymen. Paul was likeable, talented, outgoing, effervescent, and might prove to be a challenge to John's leadership.

John could have denied Paul the opportunity and remained the frontman for his team of lesser lights. Or... You can read a brief account of that story here: A Leadership Lesson from John Lennon.

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