Translating…

Scotland has produced some of history’s most talented writers. Names such as Sir Walter Scott and Arthur Conan Doyle come to mind. But what about copywriters? Are any of the greats from the glens?

Well, only despite the greatest of all time. David Ogilvy was the Father of Advertising. He was a central figure in the revolution that took place in advertising in the mid-1900s. He was also a brilliant copywriter and a great businessman. He set up and sold Ogilvy and Mather, his New York agency, for around $ 880m and his book, Confessions of an Advertising Man, has sold all over the world.

But Ogilvy was born in London. Why, then, does Scotland have a claim on him? Well, Ogilvy had an Irish mother and a Scottish father, making him half Scots.

Born in 1911, he went up to Oxford as a young man – and came swiftly down again. Subsequently, he found work as a chef in Paris, a social worker in Scotland, and a farmer in an Amish community in the States.

He ever found his way to New York, where he honed his copywriting skills, before starting up his agency. From this point onwards, he had a clear philosophy: that the aim of advertising was to shift products, not just to look good.

He was never truer to those words than with Dove soap. The brand became the US’s best-seller when repositioned as a moisturizer and soap in one.

Ogilvy felt that writers must believe in the brands they wrote about, and he always used each product he promoted. He wrote about this in his book: ‘At breakfast, I drink Maxwell House coffee or Tetley tea, and eat two slices of Pepperidge Farm toast. I wash with Dove, deodorize with Ban, and light my pipe with a Zippo lighter. ‘

Ogilvy was a genius at copywriting and his campaigns have stood the test of time. Some advertising classics have come from his pen, including ‘The Man in the Hathaway Shirt’ (complete with eyepatch), ‘Schweppervesence’ (for Schweppes), and the stunning headline, ‘At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock ‘.

But, asked about his personal favorite, Ogilvy had no hesitation in choosing ‘Pablo Casals is coming home – to Puerto Rico’. This campaign was instrumental in changing the country’s image, and the ad man said this was his greatest achievement.

Her Majesty never wave Ogilvy a knighthood, perhaps on account of living largely overseas. He did land a CBE, however, in 1967. He died in France in 1999, leaving his son and a legacy as the best copywriter Scotland ever produced.

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