Recommended Reading


‘Ogilvy on Advertising’ by David Ogilvy.
‘The consumer is not a moron. She’s your wife.’ The classic work of 20th century advertising, beautifully written. Just a little out-of-date but essential reading.

‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’ by James Webb Young
So simple, so obvious, so difficult to achieve. It’s another classic from the 1940s. You’ll read it in 20 minutes.

‘Helmut Krone. The book’ by Clive Challis
The best art director ever. Nothing too flash. Craft meets brains. Genius.

Absolute fundamentals on the writing side:

“Craft of Copywriting” and “Do Your Own Advertising” by Alastair Crompton.
Maybe out of print, but there’s usually a few second hand on Amazon. Cheapskates can order a copy from your local interlibrary lending service. These are fantastic for writing ads that work – the principles of creative communication apply regardless of the media. Even an online ad. It’s still just an ad.

‘Copywriters Handbook’ by Robert Bly
You may not like the idea of ‘Sell, sell, sell’ and find the promise of ‘magic headlines’ a little cynical. But that’s to misrepresent the inner truth of Bly’s view. Simplicity and engagement are at the heart of what he believes. Even if you hate his ideas, know your enemy.

On producing modern ‘creative’ ads:

‘Copy Book’ and ‘Art Direction’ published by D&AD.
Any D&AD annual or other creative comics like Archive or Communication Arts. They’re not for stealing ideas from. The sudden rush of random inputs jolts you out of the everyday practical mind-state and speeds up the ideas process.

‘Hey Whipple’ by Luke Sullivan is very popular with young creatives. His theory, in brief, is that all communication should be instant and the creative person’s job is to strip out information. It’s very convincing, but just not true (except in special circumstances) and one of the reasons why the ad agency business is in so much trouble and so disrespected by clients these days. But fun, nonetheless.

At the other extreme – from way back when it was accepted that advertising was about selling stuff:

Claude Hopkins ‘Scientific Advertising’;
Ogilvy’s ‘Confessions of an Adman’;
‘Reality in Advertising’ Rosser Reeves;
‘Advertising Secrets of the Written Word’ by Joseph Sugarman

Fun side:

‘Where the Suckers Moon’ by Randall Rosenberg
Brilliant – it’s like a whodunnit thriller about the death of an ad campaign!

‘From those wonderful people who brought you Pearl Harbour’ by Jerry Della Femina
Out-of-print, but probably gettable second-hand on Amazon. Funny stuff from a time when you could be a real maverick in adland and get away with it. (The title was Jerry’s suggested strapline for a Japanese consumer goods firm trying to break into the US market.)

On the theoretical/planning side:

‘Sex lies and advertising’ by Jon Steel
Goodby’s Englishman in San Francisco. Smart, sophisticated, funny, it’s a great introduction to the role of account planning in modern above-the-line brand campaigns.

On the marketing side:

‘Eating the Big Fish’ by Adam Morgan
Aw c’mon – everybody’s a challenger brand these days. It’s a while since I read it – but I recall Morgan’s account of the competitive mindset as refreshing and dynamic.

‘22 Immutable Laws of Branding’ by Al Reis
Short but v. good – available from all good airports. I seem to remember that a core principle is that brand extensions are a bad idea – but I see people doing it every day now. Does it still hold true in the modern world? Answers on an e-card…