Perhaps his most enduring contribution was the concept of brand image, now mandatory in marketing discussions, and a concept that has reached beyond advertising even into politics. He made the practice of advertising more professional, including using consumer research to guide the development of advertising. His embrace of direct marketing, the spiritual parent of the Internet, was ahead of its time. He campaigned to reinforce the purpose of advertising — to sell a client’s product, service, or idea rather than to seek awards and recognition for creative inventiveness. He was a consumerist before that concept had a name.
But his most visible legacy is Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. Ogilvy was above all an institution builder. He devoted his career to building an international firm, embedding its values so deeply that, unlike many companies created by a charismatic founder, it prospered after he retired, survived a hostile takeover (it is now a subsidiary of WPP PLC), and remains highly respected today, with his name still on the door.
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Kenneth Roman worked directly with David Ogilvy at Ogilvy & Mather between 1963 and 1989, beginning as an account executive and eventually becoming chairman and CEO. He is the coauthor of How to Advertise (with Jane Maas; St. Martin’s, 2003); and Writing That Works: How to Communicate Effectively in Business (with Joel Raphaelson; Collins, 2000), both in their third editions. He lives in New York City.
This article is adapted and excerpted from The King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy and the Making of Modern Advertising. Copyright © 2009 by Kenneth Roman and reprinted by permission of Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.