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I was lucky enough to run Ogilvy & Mather Direct during the first great decade of growth for DM – the 1980’s. And I was also lucky enough to spend some one-on-one time with my boss David Ogilvy on a few occasions, in a few different countries.


He was passionate about Direct Marketing – it was his first love and his secret weapon. He regards DM as the reason his advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather was such a success. In his final few years running the Ogilvy agency, based in Paris, he left the advertising agency and worked from the DM agency office. He was frustrated with the wasted focus on creativity and lack of accountability in the advertising agency.

In those days the DM people lived in a different world to the advertising agency troops. We were far more involved with our client’s business, not just their advertising. We had our hands in their databases, sales lead management, offer development, call centres, marketing collateral, customer surveys, competitions and more.

As a result we were often asked to do their brand advertising and sales promotions, as well as their DM. Mind you we regarded every message as a brand message. Most of us had already worked in brand advertising, but preferred the tougher challenge of DM.

And we believed passionately about our cause. Yet we were often misunderstood by our advertising agency partners, so to help them get to know what drove us, we’d show them this video from David Ogilvy. Rather than get them enthused about DM, it just made them dislike us even more. With hindsight I see why:)

Interestingly his words still resonate today – his wave of the future had a long tail, so to speak. The internet is a pure DM channel and the skills now in demand today are those of direct marketers. Who would have thought databases and data scientists would be sexy?


Early 1980’s O & M Direct UK house ad – the wave of the future…

The video is only 7 minutes long but worth all 420 seconds. Get yourself a java and watch it here. Share it with anyone you know who works in digital marketing. If only more young marketers did what David did and invested in their own education at a young age, the internet would be way more successful as a marketing channel.

David’s prediction about the future of advertising also came true. The industry is now littered with traditional brand advertising agency personnel looking for work. Their skill set is in decline in the digital world and they are struggling to remain in the industry. Ironically if they had listened to their DM partners they would have had more opportunities.


A quote from 50 years ago that still rings true today…

I read DO’s books every couple of years. I always learn something, or am reminded of the advertising fundamentals so many of us ignore, as we pursue the latest bright new shiny object.

I’m off to read “The Unpublished David Ogilvy” again – always a laugh, not to mention a good education, particularly about corporate culture.

And in case you’re wondering, Ogilvy & Mather Direct was rebranded to OgilvyOne. I’ll let you judge whether you think DO would have approved…