No “phonies, zeros, or bastards”: timeless advice on how to run a business from the original Mad Man

“We will smell of success.”
“We will smell of success.”
Image: Ogilvy
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

As founder of the agency Ogilvy & Mather, David Ogilvy reinvented advertising in the 20th century. His sweeping vision of marketing extended to the ways in which his company should market itself.

In a 1968 guide for managers at Ogilvy & Mather’s worldwide offices, Ogilvy outlined the company’s policy on respect for clients, consumers, and itself. Unlike much of the “Mad Men” era ethos, these principles have aged well. The man really did write good copy.

From The Unpublished David Ogilvy:

One of the most priceless assets Ogilvy & Mather can have is the respect of our clients and of the whole business community.

This comes from the following:

1. Our offices must always be headed by the kind of people who command respect. Not phonies, zeros or bastards.

2. Always be honest in your dealings with clients. Tell them what you would do if you were in their shoes.

3. If we do a good job for our clients, that will become known. We will smell of success, and that will bring us success.

4. If we treat our employees well, they will speak well of Ogilvy & Mather to their friends. Assuming that each employee has 100 friends, 250,000 people now have friends who work for Ogilvy & Mather. Among them are present and prospective clients.

5. In meeting with clients, do not assume the posture of servants. They need you as much as you need them.

6. While you are responsible to your clients for sales results, you are also responsible to consumers for the kind of advertising you bring into their homes. Your aim should be to create advertising that is in good taste. I abhor advertising that is blatant, dull, or dishonest. Agencies which transgress this principle are not widely respected.

7. We must pull our weight as good citizens.