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Ogilvy Advice on Building a Business

The editor of Fortune shares advice for building and running a business given to her by legendary advertising guru, Britain-born David Ogilvy of marketing juggernaut Ogilvy & Mather (now the WPP Group). Ogilvy died 10 years ago today.

My career started in magazine advertising. A huge fan of Ogilvy, I devoured his book Ogilvy on Advertising. Anyhow, here’s Ogilvy’s seven points of business success, with my notes in red.

1. Remember that Abraham Lincoln spoke of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He left out the pursuit of profit. [Note: Actually, it was originally Thomas Jefferson who wrote that in the Declaration of Independence. But hey, one shouldn’t expect a Briton to get American history right.]

2. Remember the old Scottish motto: “Be happy while you’re living, for you are a long time dead.” [Comedian George Burns says the American entrepreneurs' corollary: “I can't die now— I'm booked. I can't afford to die— I'd lose too much money.” Burns died right before his hundredth birthday.]

3. If you have to reduce your company’s payroll, don’t fire your people until you have cut your compensation and the compensation of your big-shots. [Let’s mass copy this quote and pass it to the heads of Wall Street's troubled firms.]

4. Define your corporate culture and your principles of management in writing. Don’t delegate this to a committee. Search all the parks in all your cities. You’ll find no statues of committees. [Does a painting of the Founding Fathers count as a memorial to committees and their driving culture and vision?]

5. Stop cutting the quality of your products in search of bigger margins. The consumer always notices — and punishes you.

6. Never spend money on advertising which does not sell. [Uhm, speak for yourself. Note to BMM advertisers, please delete this point.]

7. Bear in mind that the consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Do not insult her intelligence. [But what about those of us who market mainly to men? Not many of those men are wives.]

David Ogilvy

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Don Sniegowski is editor of Blue MauMau, the daily news journal for franchise & small business owners. Call him at +1 (270) 321-1268, tweet @bluemaumau or email