December 30, 2018

David Ogilvy has my back.

How do I know?

Well it says so on the mug I drank my coffee from this morning!

Also, Dan Kennedy assured me in his endorsement of my new book Overdeliver(due out in April), that Ogilvy would still have my back if he was around today:

“Ogilvy was right when he ranted to his own agency’s staff that only the mail-order people knew what the hell they were doing, and were Ogilvy alive, he would applaud Brian’s work here.” 

Needless to say, Dan made my day with that one since he and Ogilvy are heroes of mine. They are two men I acknowledge often…more on that topic in a moment.

Now that we’ve established that Ogilvy has my back, I want to use him as a launching pad as we embark on our 2019 adventures together.

The subject line refers to one of the most famous headlines Ogilvy ever wrote (and also pays homage to his monumental book, Confessions of an Advertising Man)–and I was able to find a copy of the original ad for you:

I am not going to critique the ad today (nor am I a qualified to do that)…but whenever I think of David Ogilvy, maybe sitting alone in that quiet car, or at his desk, or even on the set of “The David Letterman Show,”  I think more about his humility rather than his fame and fortune.

I’m sure he had a healthy ego—at least partly due to the fact that he has been deemed  the “Father of Advertising”—but there is so much in his writing that tells me he understood that one of the keys to life was surrounding yourself with people smarter than yourself.

I found this quote from him which supports that thesis:

I love this Ogilvy-ism is that you don’t get very far, even in a quiet Rolls Royce  travelling at 60 miles an hour, without having people in your life who can lift you up to be your best and who are “…better than you are…”

And that premise should be good enough for us too in order to practice this brand of humility as standard operating procedure in our lives.

I labeled this as “Confident humility” in the past, the last time I quoted David Ogilvy—and talked about the thin line between confidence and arrogance.

I also love the quote above because it’s a philosophy that all the great direct marketing companies embrace as it pertains to copywriters (in particular).

I’ve spoken in the past that it never bothered those companies to pay copywriters more in royalties for a winning promotion than what they paid any of their full time employees in salary…including what the owners of those companies took home as well.

You always must pay to play–and pay even more to play with the best.

Which leads to today’s theme, going a bit deeper than “Confident humility”:

If you can combine supreme confidence in yourself with a huge dose of humility (and not a hint of arrogance), you will have a wonderful life and career.

Using this formula, the best-of-the-best will flock to you and always want to work with you and for you–and not just because you are paying them the most money.

Since I believe that has been my prescription for success (he says without arrogance!), it led me to the most difficult task during the writing of my new book–the acknowledgements section. 

The good news is that I have been around long enough to meet so many amazing people in all areas of direct marketing, copywriting–and everything related to this wonderful industry—and in that section I had an opportunity to acknowledge all of them.

The bad news is I didn’t want to forget anyone–and I know I probably did.

One thing I realized while compiling the list of acknowledgments is all that “meeting and greeting” (and so many meals!) was a lot less superficial than I thought…every person I mentioned in this section of my book (it’s well over 500, and as I said,  I know I forgot at least a few), contributed something meaningful to me.

And hopefully I did enough for them to maketheir “acknowledgements section” someday.

Which also leads me to something else–an end-of-year exercise I highly recommend you do—one that will be a lot more fulfilling than making a bunch of New Year’s resolutions you have no intention of keeping anyway: 

Write the acknowledgments section of YOUR book right now, based on your life to this point…even if you never have any intention of ever writing a book. 

I think you will be surprised (and also feel incredibly blessed) when you see how many people have contributed to your success…and also how many lives you have changed for the better as well.

You may even have a “George Bailey moment” while doing this– and if you don’t, go watch the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life” immediately—and then write your acknowledgements.

Another bonus of doing this exercise will be to keep your ego in check as we begin the New Year—but hopefully it will also give you additional confidence too.

On keeping your ego in check, heed the warning of the great John Caples who knows that if you don’t do this, your own hubris will creep into your work (as he warned marketers and copywriters with in this famous quote):

“The most frequent reason for unsuccessful advertising is advertisers who are so full of their own accomplishments (the world’s best seed!) that they forget to tell us why we should buy (the world’s best lawn!).” 

The young copywriter I spoke about in “Confident humility” is a perfect example of an ego not in check.

On giving you additional confidence, if you do this exercise you will have a written document (i.e. “your complete list of acknowledgments through 2018”) reminding you how many people have your back.

I’ll proclaim like everyone else to lose 10 pounds as a New Year’s resolution…but while I know that I will forget about that declaration by January 15th, I also know that I will never forget about all the people who participated in getting me so “fat” in the first place.

You know, the “good fat,” like avocados…and enabling me to stand on the shoulders of giants.





P.S. I would like to wish all of you, everyone in my online family, a Happy New Year.

I hope that 2019 is your best year ever.

Your support, advice, ideas, and feedback throughout the year is such a blessing, and although I cannot acknowledge all of you by name in my new book, I will do that here.

I love spending my early Sunday mornings with you–and look forward to doing it every week again in the coming year.

A big, appreciative acknowledgment to YOU.

And your input is always welcome all year round…those of you who email me know that I respond to every e-mail (even if not immediately).

And one last Ogilvy quote on why it is so important for you to go forth this next year (and every year) with supreme confidence:

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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