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David Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Advertising Man” was published in 1963, and it’s still considered one of the most popular books on advertising. The book touches on pragmatic topics such as ‘how to get clients’ and ‘how to write potent copy’, but also gives opinion on high-level strategy and philosophy.

After recently reading the classic ad book I could easily see how all forms of advertising have common bonds, and David Ogilvy’s principles are applicable to online marketing, more specifically: PPC management.

Below are some “Ogilvy-isms” which stood out to me as an online marketing manager.

1.   Never give up on a campaign just because you have grown tired of it; housewives don’t see your advertisements as often as you do.

Don’t just change your landing page or website because you’re bored with the design. If you have a nicely converting landing page then make subtle improvements, or employ an A/B test instead of redesigning with a new color scheme or call-to-action.

This can also apply to display ads running on Google Display Network.  Just because you believe an ad has been overused, doesn’t mean it has lost its effectiveness.

2.    I preach the importance of discipline in art. Shakespeare wrote his sonnets within a strict discipline, fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, rhyming in three quatrains and a couplet. Were his sonnets dull? Mozart wrote his sonatas within an equally rigid discipline – exposition, development, and recapitulation.

This one comes a bit easier to PPC managers since we are limited to only 25 characters in a headline and 35 per ad description line, but keeping ad creation scalable and formulaic is especially important if you are building out a large account.

3.   You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade.

There are millions of things online that are attempting to distract your target audience, and you have to find a way to make your ad stand out to get the audience’s attention. The Internet is a dynamic environment and you have to deliver your message quickly and concisely.

4. An advertisement is like a radar sweep, constantly hunting new prospects as they come into the market. Get a good radar, and keep it sweeping.

This one applies well to display advertising in that good ad copy and design is paramount to success, but keep testing new placement URLs, topics, interests, and demographics.

5.   It is important to admit your mistakes and to do so before you are charged with them.

Building a solid and trustworthy relationship with a client is only possible if you’re forthright with any mistakes in a PPC account. Every PPC manager makes an error at some point, whether it be budget mismanagement, or sending traffic to a 404 page.

6.   Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating.

Managing an Adwords account for a relatively dull b2b service can make striking creativity a challenge, but this doesn’t mean that a boring service doesn’t have some unique angle that can shine a differentiator.  Always be upfront about the service or product being promoted, but find a way to make it cool.

7.   In the best establishments, promises are always kept, whatever it may cost in agony and overtime.

Keeping deadlines is important to your reputation as a business.  Be careful not to overpromise on delivery dates, and don’t underestimate the amount of time and research that goes into building a solid pay-per-click campaign structure.

8.   We prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance.

Stay informed.  Keep reading PPC blogs for ways to get better and to say current with Google’s always-changing ad platform.  Develop a system for managing multiple accounts instead of jumping around from account to account to put out fires.


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