Applying David Ogilvy's advertising advice to influencer marketing

January 7, 2019
Last updated on
December 13, 2021


David Ogilvy was a master salesman who became one of the more successful copywriters in the history of advertising, and today I want to look at some of his more insightful pieces of advice and see how they are relevant 50 years later in influencer marketing.

1. “The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.”
This seems obvious, but when I look through Instagram #sponsored content, almost none of it informs the potential customer of what it is that they might be purchasing.

2. “Don’t address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing to each of them a letter on behalf of your client.”
Something we would refer to as “Key Messaging Vomit” when an influencer says something like, “I love these shoes, they are 100% USDA organic cotton uppers with a innovative sole that cradles your arch while providing great ankle support, and they look great in both casual and workplace settings”. Sure this is an exaggeration, but honestly not much of one. The influencer can hit the key messages of your product as long as you let them do it in their voice for their audience.

3. “There isn’t any significant difference between the various brands of whiskey, or cigarettes or beer. They are all about the same. The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit.”
It’s important to constantly remind ourselves that the brands we work with are likely not the unique snowflakes we think they are. Don’t despair, the beauty of advertising is we can use it to expand beyond product and price, and compete on an emotional level. Brands need to be relentless in telling the story of not only what their product does, but also what it means to be a customer.

4. “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
What is the equivalent of a headline on Instagram? The closest we have is probably that first line in the caption. The purpose of the photo the influencer publishes is to arouse curiosity and persuade the consumer to pause and read about the product. That first line they write is the most important one of the entire caption.  

5. “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”
Not every post needs to be aspirational or editorial but if you have a sense of humor, make sure you use that to your advantage. I think some of the most convincing brand content published this year is from Casey Neistat, who is incredibly informative and mixes humor with everything he does.

6. “The worst fault a salesman can commit is to be a bore.”
At the end of the day, an influencer is a salesperson for your company and while brands want them to sell the product, there is absolutely no way that’s going to happen if the content is boring.

— Fohr CEO James Nord

To learn more insider insights on the influencer space, keep a close eye on our blog.

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