Published date: Friday, 24 June 2016

Who Was David Ogilvy, and Why Is He Being Interviewed at Cannes?

Advertising, particularly since the advent of digital, is a fast-paced industry, changing and adapting to new technologies, innovative brands and dramatically transformed consumer behavior.

Last week The Drum turned to an industry great through the power of artificial intelligence.A man who passed away in 1999, and sought to bring back his wealth of insight into an industry which has changed beyond all recognition in the last 17 years.

Often billed as ‘The Father of Modern Advertising’ David Ogilvy founded Ogilvy & Mather in 1949, based on the principle that the key to successful advertising is not to be loud, or patronising, but instead to respect and gather information about the consumer. The famous adage ‘the customer is not a moron, she’s your wife’ stems from these ideas.

Ogilvy didn’t just pioneer great campaigns during these years, he practically wrote the advertising rulebook. Ogilvy On Advertising became a must-read in the industry, pushing principles of creativity, research, discipline, and, fundamentally, delivering results for clients. This mixture of different ideas is perhaps best summarised in this quote:

When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.’

All of these things have become central to our modern approach to the advertising world. But amidst all of the ad tech, the real-time bidding and questions of viewability, it is easy to forget Ogilvy’s mantras. Now moreso than ever, it’s the consumer that needs to be placed right at the heart of the advertising world. With all the new facilities and means of connecting with people, it is important not to bombard audiences with every ad under the sun but to instead sit back and think, just as Ogilvy did over 60 years ago – how do you respect your consumer, find relevant information, and target them accordingly.

Artificial Intelligence is already affecting consumers in ways that would probably not have even occurred to Ogilvy. For example, Twitter has recently acquired AI startup Magic Pony to help oversee their push in social media video, meaning that users on the site are provided not only with content they want, but content they may not have realised they wanted. Artificial Intelligence has also directed, edited and produced a new music video for Saatchi & Saatchi; analysing what video watchers enjoy and creating content that reflects this. IBM Watson, the pioneer of the Ogilvy scheme, is also intended to use AI to let consumers offer them real-time feedback, creating a (literal) dialogue with audiences.

It’s impossible to know exactly what Ogilvy would have made of the modern advertising world, but it’s fair to say he’d stick to his guns – let creativity and consumer information run hand in hand, delivering proper results and maintaining quality standards. His posthumous appearance at Cannes Lions is sure to remind us this.