How many business books from 1963 still hold a position of status in the collective psyche today?
I'd be surprised if any were held in better esteem than David Ogilvy's "Confessions of an Advertising Man".
I've been interested in advertising for some months now, because it's one of only a handful of vocations which are truly creative but which also directly support businesses. So I recently discovered this book, and read it from cover-to-cover one day last week.
How does it stand-up then? And what can it offer to the creative thinker?
The first thing to say is READ THE BOOK. There's a wealth of commonsense advice in there, even if it's not all germane to this topic.
If we're looking for advice on creativity though, there are pros and cons. A lot of good messages about constructing the right environment to encourage new thinking, but then something rather more controversial ...
"I will not allow [new recruits] to use the word CREATIVE to describe the functions they will perform in our agency."How surprising.
Didn't I just classify advertising as a CREATIVE industry? So why is the "Father of Advertising" dismissing the word?
Ogilvy worried that the focus of his new recruits could too easily become the perceived artistic quality of their adverts, rather than the more concrete measure of the product sales they stimulate. He had little respect for advertising for its own sake, only seeking to measure them by their quantitative benefits to the clients.
So what do we reckon? Should I be flinging-around the word "creative" as liberally as I do?
Yes, I think I should. And here's why:
I seek to appeal to professionals in industries which are traditionally seen as non-creative. In those industries, people need active encouragement to rediscover their instinctive creativity. They need reminding that creativity exists, that it exists in them, and that it's a valuable means to an end. Few of us in the more analytical sectors would fall into the trap of thinking themselves as "creative" first-and-foremost, and so few would run the risk of forgetting the business imperitives in their excess enthusiasm for creativity.
Forget the means until you understand the ends. When the ends are clear, revisit the means.