“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts” (Great Quotes on Advertising, 3)

On the goal of advertising

Advertising says to people, “Here’s what we’ve got. Here’s what it will do for you. Here’s how to get it.” —Leo Burnett

So Kennedy said to me, “Do you know what advertising is?” I said, “I think I do … It is news.” … He said, “No, news is a technique of presentation, but advertising is a very simple thing. I can give it to you in three words.” “Well,” I said, “I am hungry. What are those three words?” “He said, “Salesmanship in print.”—Lasker, The Lasker Story, As He Told It

There is no such thing as a soft sell and hard sell. There is only smart sell and stupid sell. —Charles Browder

Plan the sale when you plan the ad. —Leo Burnett

Advertising is salesmanship mass produced. No one would bother to use advertising if he could talk to all his prospects face-to-face. But he can’t.—Morris Hite

The way we sell is to get read first. —Raymond Rubicam

You aren’t advertising to a standing army; you are advertising to a moving parade. … A good advertisement can be thought of as a radar sweep, constantly hunting new prospects as they come into the market. Get a good radar, and keep it sweeping. —David Ogilvy

Do you want fine writing? Do you want masterpieces? Or do you want to see the goddamned sales curve to start moving up? —Rosser Reeves

On describing benefits

Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or your profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising. —Claude C. Hopkins, Scientific Advertising  [It’s remarkable how much of this 1923 book is still very relevant.]

People can be coaxed but not driven. Whatever they do they do to please themselves. —Claude C. Hopkins, Scientific Advertising

A gifted product is mightier than a gifted pen. —Rosser Reeves, quoted in Schwab, How to Write a Good Advertisement

There are many ways to start an ad, but one of the best, if not the best, is to tell the reader how to get something he already wants. The formula is simple enough, but the real problem is to put your finger on that want. It may be something so obvious—like the merchandise itself—that you will tend to overlook it, and start farther back than you need to. —Jim Young, quoted in Schwab, How to Write a Good Advertisement

This secret of all true persuasion is to induce the person to persuade himself. —Harry Overstreet, quoted in Schwab, How to Write a Good Advertisement

Many advertisers find it extremely difficult to put themselves on the consumer’s side of the counter. Kenneth M. Goode was pointing directly at such advertisers when he wrote: “Nothing of yours ever seems half so important to me (the consumer) as it does to you. Millions of advertising dollars are wasted every year because what I want to hear has nothing to do with what you want to say.” —Schwab, How to Write a Good Advertisement

The advertisements which persuade people to act are written by men who have an abiding respect for the intelligence of their readers, and a deep sincerity regarding the merits of the goods they have to sell. —Bruce Barton, co-founder of Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn (BBDO)

You must make the product interesting, not just make the ad different. And that’s what too many of the copywriters in the U.S. today don’t yet understand. —Rosser Reeves

The best ad is a good product. —Alan H. Meyer

He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lampposts—for support rather than illumination. —Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope. —Charles Revson

The philosophy behind much advertising is based on the old observation that every man is really two men—the man he is and the man he wants to be. —William Feather

Whenever you can, make the product itself the hero of your advertising. If you think the product too dull, I have news for you: there are no dull products, only dull writers. —David Ogilvy

If you and your competitors all make excellent products, don’t try to imply that your product is better. Just say what’s good about your product—and do a clearer, more honest, more informative job of saying it. —Joel Raphaelson

“Promise, large promise is the soul of an advertisement,” said Samuel Johnson. When he auctioned off the contents of the Anchor Brewery he made the following promise: “We are not here to sell boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.” Dr. Johnson was right 200 years ago, and there is abundant evidence that he is still right today. Advertising which promises no benefit to the consumer does not sell, yet the majority of campaigns contain no promise whatever. (That is the most important sentence in this book. Read it again.) —David Ogilvy


  • David Ogilvy’s Ogilvy on Advertising is one of my all-time favorite books on advertising.
  • I’m a copywriter as well as an art historian and historian. Some years back, for inspiration, I collected my favorite quotes about advertising; they ended up in the appendix of the Versaquill Copywriting WorkbookThe quotes above are the third installment: I’ll be publishing more here occasionally: click on “Advertising” in the tab cloud at lower right to find them all.
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About Dianne L. Durante

I constantly seek out art that's inspiring, thought-provoking, skillfully executed, and/or beautiful so I can share it (in jargon-free language) with others who need and enjoy such art, but don't have time to search for it themselves. As an independent scholar, writer, and lecturer, I focus on art history and history, with forays into food, history, politics, and publishing. My most recent projects are three volumes on Alexander Hamilton, From Portraits to Puddles, Central Park: The Early Years, Innovators in Sculpture (a survey of 5,000 years of art in 2 hours), and videoguide apps by Guides Who Know. Click on the Books & Essays tab for a list of all books. For upcoming projects, see my Patreon page.

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