What’s most startling about reading this 1963 book on advertising is how much of the advice is still valid.
There are some elements of Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy that have aged, such as a comment that women should should leave the workplace to care for their babies. There’s also reams of name-dropping, and a cosy Old Tie Club element to sections of it which sits uncomfortably with modern propriety.
The chapter on writing copy, however, could be used word-for-word for explaining succinct writing now. Most of Ogilvy’s rules on copywriting are the same as the rules on writing in plain English. This book actually made me think on how to use it the next time I’m told plain English is some modern fad…
There are even elements that apply for writing online link bait now. Ogilvy loved a numbered list more than buzzfeed does, and he knew you had to get your keywords into the headline.
The cover of the edition I got cheekily steals its design from Mad Men, the TV series that stole its entire character from this book to start with. So here’s a bonus video.