Every week, Boost brings you insights straight from the writers in our Creative Network. Writers share tips on how to inject more creativity into ads, best practices for writing ad copy, and more. This week Dylan Barmmer, pen name “wordisborn” who has been an active writer in the Network for over five years, shares 5 great ad writing tips from industry legend David Ogilvy. 


David Ogilvy is an advertising legend.


Referred to by many as “The Father of Advertising” – and once dubbed “the most sought-after wizard in the business,” the founder of renowned agency Ogilvy & Mather oversaw the creation of famous campaigns for the likes of Rolls-Royce, Dove, Shell, and Schweppes.


The outspoken Englishman’s 1985 book, “Ogilvy on Advertising,” is also considered an invaluable tome in the advertising world. Among some of his greatest quotes is this gem:


“The customer is not a moron, she’s your wife.”


We could go on and on about Ogilvy, who died in 1999, but ensured by virtue of his rich and fruitful life that he will somehow always live on. The man never got the chance to write with his thumbs or craft a finely-tuned Facebook post. But his core tenets and insightful advice still carry serious weight.


But we’ve decided to condense this blog down to five indispensable ad-writing tips from the man. Because while these old-school advertising tips still hold true for writing effective digital ads today, everyone’s attention span has certainly shrunk since Ogilvy’s heyday several decades ago.


*Do Your Research: In the dramatic words of Ogilvy, “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.” It’s not hard to decode his message here. The more you understand your target consumer – along with his or her wants, needs, desires, and habits – the better job you can do of tailoring copy to them. And the more you know about the industry, competitors, and overall landscape of the brand you’re writing on behalf of, the better the chance of your ad hitting home – and compelling conversions.


*Respect Your Consumer: It’s not enough to really know your consumer. You should respect him or her, too. Harking back to the famous “your wife” quote cited above, there was more to it. The rest of it held, “Don’t insult her intelligence, and don’t shock her.” Of course, this also means “don’t talk down to her,” and “don’t blow smoke up her you-know-what,” so take care to craft copy that is not only powerful, but respectful as well.


*Your Headline is VERY Important: We’ve blogged in great detail about this topic before. And for good reason. As Ogilvy insisted, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” To his point, put about 80 percent of your focus into really nailing your ad’s headline. Or at least devote half of your energy and attention to it. It matters. A lot.


*Swing for the Fences: The exact Ogilvy quote here is, “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.” That might sound melodramatic, but there’s a lot of truth to it. Especially when you consider how many more marketing and advertising messages the typical American consumer is bombarded with each and every day since Ogilvy’s era. So cut through the clutter. Stand up and speak out. Do something different. Unique. Memorable. Powerful. Take some chances. SWING!


*Focus on the Sale: Ogilvy himself said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” As cool as a really different and unique ad is (or even a witty or clever one might be), if it doesn’t compel conversions and translate into revenue (or some other KPI) for the advertiser, then it’s not truly successful. Advertisers spend money on ads to help their business, not to win awards or secure laughs, love, or “likes.” Make sure you understand not just who your advertiser is talking to, but what the advertiser wants to accomplish with the ad. And create it accordingly.


Here at Boost Media, we can’t ensure that any Ogilvy acolytes will be available to help you design, write and optimize your digital ads. But we can guarantee that when you trust your ad creative with the Boost Creative Network, you’ll instantly receive the backing of a powerful, global group of handpicked designers and writers. And chances are more than a few of them are intimately familiar with the core philosophies of David Ogilvy.


Even if they’re not, they’re still pretty good at what they do. Since our foundation in 2009, the Boost Creative Network has delivered more than 250,000 compelling ads on behalf of many famous household brands – and optimized more than $1 billion in digital ad budgets. We also help ensure increasingly successful performance via our vast network of skilled ad pros.


Contact us today to see how we can help you make all the right moves when it comes to writing, optimizing, and analyzing your digital ad creative!


About Boost Media

Boost Media increases advertiser profitability by using a combination of humans and a proprietary software platform to drive increased ad relevance at scale.

The Boost marketplace comprises over 1,000 expert copywriters and image optimizers who compete to provide a diverse array of perspectives. Boost’s proprietary software identifies opportunities for creative optimization and drives performance using a combination of workflow tools and algorithms. Headquartered in San Francisco, the Boost Media optimization platform provides fresh, performance-driven creative in 12 localized languages worldwide.