David Ogilvy was born June 23, 1911.
We all know what Ogilvy brought to the ad business. Wolff reminds us what the man also brought to the business of letters:
Among the giants of modern prose must be David Ogilvy.
Confessions of an Advertising Man, a book my advertising-man father gave me to read when I was 12 (an age of high susceptibility to prose styles), had the same body-slamming impact on me as Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories, which I read about the same time. Active rather than passive, intimate rather than formal, grammatically streamlined, first person, and characterized by a set of appealing personal tics, the language seemed to break from all the blah blah you’d ever read before. Not only did it make you want to write like that, but you felt you could write like that: crystalline, authoritative, oracular even, and witty.
When you consider David Droga’s pro-copy piece in the Wall Street Journal today and this salute, it’s a nice reprieve from all the Dos and Don’ts of the digital space. Step back from this medium, or any other message conveying medium ever invented, and you will see that technique serves story. Sadly, this fundamental gets lost in all the chatter.