David Ogilvy, creator of some of advertising’s most memorable icons, including the debonair Hathaway Man with his black eye patch and Commander Edward Whitehead touting Schweppes tonic, died Wednesday. He was 88.
Ogilvy, a founder of the international advertising company Ogilvy & Mather, died at his home in Touffou, France, after a long illness, his New York-based agency announced.
Earlier this year, Advertising Age named Ogilvy No. 4 in its Top 100 Advertising People of the Century. In 1961, Ogilvy became one of the first inductees into the newly created Copywriters Hall of Fame, and in 1977 he was named to the Advertising Hall of Fame.
In addition to Hathaway shirts and Schweppes tonic, Ogilvy’s advertising campaigns also marketed such well-known brands as Shell Oil, Sears, KLM, American Express, IBM, Pepperidge Farm, and Rolls-Royce.
To sell the British-made luxury car, Ogilvy wrote one of the most famous lines in automobile advertising history: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”
An extraordinary wordsmith and businessman, Ogilvy was widely quoted and emulated for his expertise and his creative but always fact-based approach to advertising. He wrote three books: “Confessions of an Advertising Man” in 1963, his autobiography “Blood, Brain & Beer” in 1978 and “Ogilvy on Advertising” in 1983.
Among his quotable adages were: “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife”; “Never run an advertisement you would not want your own family to see” and, “We prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance. We pursue knowledge the way a pig pursues truffles.”
Throughout his career, Ogilvy eschewed cute and funny material in favor of solid and voluminous information in advertising. He made his belief that the function of advertising is to sell into the mantra of his company.
“The trouble with most advertising is it tries too damned hard to be entertaining,” Ogilvy told The Times in 1971 during a visit to Los Angeles to address the Western States Advertising Agencies Assn. “You’d run like hell if a salesman came to your door and began singing at you; why do it in advertising? The housewife in the supermarket or the man out to buy a car is in a fairly serious frame of mind--and it’s no time to be funny.”
A decade later, and eight years after formally retiring as chairman of O & M and moving to his 37-bedroom French chateau, Ogilvy complained to The Times during another Los Angeles visit about “the unrelenting bombardment of commercials” on American television.
“Sooner or later,” he warned, “it will have to be brought under control, probably by the government, for the sake of the immortal soul, the consumer.”
Born in West Horsley, England, David Mackenzie Ogilvy attended Fettes College in Edinburgh and “got thrown out of” Oxford, as he described it, calling that the failure of his life.
Ogilvy went to Paris as an apprentice chef in the kitchen of the Hotel Majestic and returned to England as a door-to-door salesman for Aga Cooker kitchen stoves. At the age of 24, he wrote a guide for Aga salesmen that Fortune magazine later called “probably the best sales manual ever written.” That achievement earned Ogilvy a copywriting job at Mather & Crowther advertising agency where an older brother worked.
After moving to the United States in 1938, Ogilvy became an associate director for George Gallup’s Audience Research Institute in Princeton, N.J. He worked for the British Embassy in Washington during World War II and afterward was a farmer living among the Amish in Lancaster County, Pa.
With financial backing from his old London agency, Mather & Crowther, but no clients, Ogilvy founded Hewitt, Ogilvy, Benson & Mather in New York in 1948. The name evolved to Ogilvy & Mather by 1965 when Ogilvy took over his London patron, and two decades later became Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide Inc. Now owned by WPP Group Plc, which also owns J. Walter Thompson Co. and the Hill & Knowlton Inc. public relations firm, O & M has 359 offices in 100 countries. Ogilvy maintained advisory contact with the company until his death.
Twice divorced, Ogilvy is survived by his third wife, Herta Lans, whom he married when he retired to France in 1973, and by his son, David Fairfield Ogilvy of Greenwich, Conn.
Ogilvy will be buried privately in France and a memorial service will be planned in New York this fall.