The diversity of Ogilvy
David Ogilvy had countless jobs before he came to Madison Avenue. Some of the roles that he attributes to his success include working in the kitchens of The Majestic in Paris under a tyrant chef, selling Aga cookers to housewives door-to-door and being a social worker in the slums of Edinburgh. These diverse roles helped shape his character and gave him invaluable life skills needed to understand how to reach consumers through his words and advertisements. Ogilvy started his agency a little late in life and in his own words
Had neither the time nor the money to wait twenty years to arrive. He was poor, unknown and in a hurry.
That drive and diversity helped him create one of the most celebrated advertising agencies of all time.
Like Ogilvy I have done lots of things, learnt as I went along, taken a lot of risks, lived hand-to-mouth and had more failures than success.
Every job I have had has taught me valuable skills:
During a summer break from university I worked with hardened factory workers at the lower social, economic scale. A young student to them was easy prey, I was bullied and had to undertake the most depressing, menial, mind-numbing, spirit-crushing jobs you can imagine, such as sitting all day tapping a metal cap onto a metal rod. Over, and over, and over, again. This gives you the motivation to never go back.
I was a Pizza Delivery driver in a rough part of Bradford. Delivering past midnight, on my own, at 19. This teaches you to keep your wits about you and how to stay safe. My Mum still doesn’t know about this.
Picking apples sounds pretty mundane but if I tell you the apple fields were in the far north of Israel on the border of Lebanon it is a little more interesting. During the day you could hear machine gun fire of battles being fought and at night you could see firebombs being dropped only 25km away (a spectacular sight!). This teaches you to live in the moment and value everything that you have.
When I first left university I ended working in a betting shop, which dragged on for nearly a year. Gambling is a nasty disease and it brings out the best and worst in peoples character. You deal with extreme behaviors and have to learn how to calm an angry person down, how to console someone who has just lost a fortune and how to not be judgmental to someone who is betting with loose change as they have nothing left and are so addicted they will spend their last penny. One day I had a punter try to climb over the counter to strangle me as he had lost a bet. Communication is important in such an intense environment.
I have worked in countless bars and this is not a place you can be shy. I have broken up fights with big guys, thrown people out and danced on the bar in-front of hundreds (I was fully clothed thank you). You are dealing with drunk people who think it is funny to make lewd and downright filthy comments or dish-out personal abuse to you. You have to give as good as you get. The payback is confidence and presentation skills.
Above all else understanding people is a valuable skill to have. When you do business, sell a product, create an advert or try to engage a customer you are dealing with personalities and people react with emotion before reason.
Experiencing life and having exposure to as many cultures as possible is more of an asset than sitting behind a desk can ever be and beyond anything you can read in a book (although I am a huge advocate of reading). It makes you tenacious, adaptable and entrepreneurial – all qualities essential for a good online marketer. And, most of all, the more social groups you are exposed to, the more you understand personalities:
Marketing is about defining personas so that you can engage them with your brand.
Or in more basic terms:
My advice for anyone who wants to be more creative and be a great online marketer is to get out in the world and:
- Take risks
- Try lots of things
- Fail at lots of things
- Read widely and extensively
- Keep learning
- Keep looking at things in a new way
- Be bold but also be humble
In Creative Mischief, Dave Trott quotes Carl Ally, the great NYC advertiser:
“The creative person wants to be a know it all, He wants to know about all kinds of things. He never knows when these ideas might come together to form a new idea. It may happen six minutes later or in six years but the creative person has faith it will happen”
Article originally posted on November 27, 2012