He endures not only as the original Don Draper, but also as one of modern history’s most celebrated creative leaders in the communication arts and undoubtedly one of the handful of thinkers (Burnett, Rubicam, Bates to name a few) who shaped the advertising business after the 1920s.
Ogilvy left Oxford at 20 in 1931 in the midst of the Great Depression to take a position in the kitchen of the Hotel Majestic in Paris and this was meant to be the first in a motley series of occupations: By 1948, when he started his fledgling New York agency, Ogilvy had already worked as a sous-chef, an advertising trainee, a door-to-door salesman for Aga stoves, a researcher for George Gallup of Americans' opinions about movie stars, an Amish-country farm owner, and, during World War II, a spy for British military intelligence. His life was amazing, even his boss was Sir William Stephenson, a man Ian Fleming would claim was the model for James Bond.
His twenties were a source of lasting lessons and when he witnessed the terrifying head chef of the Majestic, Monsieur Pitard, firing a man whose brioches weren't just so he was certain that there is only one model of success: hard work, discipline, and excellence. “The good salesman combines the tenacity of a bulldog with the manners of a spaniel. If you have any charm, ooze it" Ogilvy wrote at age 24 in his sales handbook for Aga (according to Fortune magazine “probably the best sales manual ever written”) in which he emphasized the value of using straightforward, entertaining imagery to extol the product. “The consumer is not a moron; she is your wife” he claimed and he was damn right.
His ads may have been austere, but his lifestyle was lavish. He had a penchant for flamboyant clothing, private clubs, and a chauffeured Rolls. In 1966, Ogilvy & Mather (a U.S. offshoot of the decades-old Mather and Crowther) went public. Shortly after, Ogilvy purchased the 30-room Château Touffou south of France's Loire Valley, to which he retired seven years later with his third wife, a woman 25 years his junior. There, guests were serenaded by a troupe of horn players after dinner and were served breakfasts in their rooms. This baronial life became his undoing. From France, Ogilvy bombarded employees with up to 50 faxed memos per day, but his influence waned. So, too, did his vast wealth, owing to his profligate spending. This king of advertisement died in a proper royal way on July 21, 1999 at his estate in France.
[Biography] [The King of Madison Avenue]
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