All I Need to Know About Internet Marketing I Learned from David Ogilvy

Ian Lurie

About Running an Agency

“In the advertising industry to be successful you must, of necessity, accumulate a group of creative people. This probably means a fairly high percentage of high strung, brilliant, eccentric nonconformists.”
— Confessions of an Advertising Man, p. 39
Amen. My best friends have always been eccentric nonconformists, too. The conversations are a lot more fun.

About Getting New Clients

“I have never wanted to get an account so big I could not afford to lose it.”
— p. 73
Yup. I have caused myself so much aggravation running a company with 20+ clients, when other companies the same size have 4-5. The upside, though, is that it keeps us going. Not that I’d turn down a nice humongous client, but a broad foundation helps.

On Screwing Up

“It is important to admit your mistakes, and to do so before you are charged with them.”
— p. 91
I make mistakes. Lots of them. Heaps. I’d say for every big success, I probably blow it, oh, 1,000,000 times or so. The key in internet marketing is to measure everything, so that you never make the same mistake twice.
In internet marketing, you don’t make mistakes. You do research.
But you’d damned well better be honest with your clients about the outcome of that research.

On Being a Good Client

“Emancipate your agency from fear.”
— p. 101
A creative team does better work when they don’t have to constantly look over their shoulders. Give your agency a gift: Six months when they don’t have to worry about getting fired.
If you can’t trust them enough to do that, find another agency.

About Having the Big Idea

“What you say is more important than how you say it.”
— p. 121
A good idea has legs. You can put it on a plain white web page and it’ll sell better than a bad idea in an award-winning design.

Committees Are A Pain

“Committees can criticize advertisements, but they cannot write them.”
— p. 126
Design by committee never works. Ever. Sometimes it fails less. But it never works. I’ve seen designs take over a year because 30 people couldn’t agree on the right stock photo. It never works.

Headlines are Important

“The headline is the most important element in most advertisements.”
— p. 133
A web page lives and dies by its headline. Never forget it.

Get to the Point

“Don’t beat about the bush – go straight to the point.”
— p. 136
Keep it short. Deliver good information. Ask them to buy. Stop.

Wishful Thinking

“People do not buy from bad-mannered liars.”
— p. 195
I wish. But I can say this: People do not buy twice from bad-mannered liars.
So write honest advertising.

Ogilvy Knew a Thing or Two

I had a meeting with a client today. Meeting with smart people makes me think, and halfway through the meeting I said “Most of what we know now about internet marketing, David Ogilvy could’ve told us in the 1950s.”
The truth is, when we started using the internet as a marketing medium, we screwed it all up. Only now, over the last few years, we’ve started to fix things. By going back to what Ogilvy knew a long time ago.
If you want inspiration, read his book:

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Yes Ian the tried and true truly works but in order to find out what has been tried successfully in the past you need something realible and credible like personally I read Jeff Pauls books on internet marketing and I followed that to achieve major success.

  2. Zephry,
    If you’re really suggesting that Jeff Paul’s system is a winner, I suggest you read my pieces about Sam’s Club and SEOConfessions.
    His publishing-scam-turned-pyramid-scheme is one of the worst out there.

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