Top 10 Quotes on Advertising

To fill a glass, you must empty it first. The equivalent applies to advertising. Sometimes, you must unlearn the new, in favour of the old. 

Everyone enters advertising with enthusiasm and passion. But once you’ve been put through the ringer, passion takes a backseat and enthusiasm dissolves into a puddle. 

Fortunately, when it comes to advertising, you are preceded by a number of brave hearts from the industry. Extraordinary individuals who fashioned new ways, disrupted norms, re-examined methods and made present day advertising conceivable. 

Between print and electronic, social media and content marketing, advertising can feel a little muddled.  So, sometimes it makes perfect sense to return to the roots and revisit quotes from advertising greats that inspire, excite and motivate. 

Here are my top 10 favourite quotes on Advertising :

1. “We want consumers to say, ‘That’s a hell of a product’ instead of, ‘That’s a hell of an ad”

– Leo Burnett

For me, this is a core principle that agencies, creatives and clients should use as a yardstick to decide what creative route or piece of advertising to approve. 

2. “Creative without strategy is called ‘art.’ Creative with strategy is called ‘advertising.” 

– Jef I. Richards

If an advertisement is creative, but lacks effective strategy it will miss its mark. The biggest part of advertising is reaching out to a targeted audience. Making an advertisement that will engage the viewer and then ensuring it reaches the right audience is the goal of a successful campaign.

3.“In our factory, we make lipstick. In our advertising, we sell hope.” 

Peter Nivio Zarlenga

Advertising is more than mere creation of logo and brand identity. It involves storytelling, creating a brand image, tapping into consumers’ emotions and inspiring them to make a purchase. It is the transformation of a product into an emotion and inspiration for the customer. 

4. “An ad is finished only when you no longer can find a single element to remove.

Robert Fleege

Less is more. Always. If you can’t say it simply and concisely, you’re saying it wrong. We advertise to connect and not to confuse. People will ultimately comprehend the core of your message and disregard the fluff around it. Think more. Say less! 

5. “The advertisement is the most truthful part of a newspaper.”

– Thomas Jefferson

This is a bit off-kilter. It wasn’t particularly his thoughts on the newspaper. It was said in context of the Panic of 1819, the first financial crisis in the USA. He was trying to downplay the panic, since the press was blaming the federal government. It may not be relevant here, but I found it interesting nevertheless. 

6. “I have learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one.” 

– Leo Burnett

 There’s no single definition of creativity and therein lies its challenge. What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. The most creative ad is not necessarily the best one. Creativity for the sake of it may do more harm than good. So, it’s important to know where to draw the line. 

7. “The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”


Howard Luck Gossage

He’s got a point. How many ads do you read carefully? Most ads get passed over unless they manage to attract a viewer so compulsively that he has to have a second look. 

8. “I don’t know the rules of grammar. If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language.”

– David Ogilvy

Grammar Nazis back off. He wasn’t endorsing bad grammar in writing. His intention was to communicate that you should write in a way that the audience can understand and relate to easily. 

9. “Advertising doesn’t create a product advantage. It can only convey it.”

– Bill Bernbach

The product or the service is what it is. Advertising can only communicate existing benefits in as compelling a manner as possible. The marketing landscape can be incredibly gimmicky. Bernbach always first insisted on learning how the products related to their users and tried to define the attributes and human emotions in play.  He then decided what communication mode to use to capture the consumers attention and endorsement. 

10. The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.” 

– David Ogilvy

Underestimate the consumer’s intelligence at your own peril. And your client’s. Advertising should be able to sell products or services to a consumer as though you were selling it to your loved ones. A consumer is a living breathing human-being and you have to meet him at his pain or pleasure point. Respect is a two-way street. 

As brands can now engage in two-way conversations with consumers, it is important to keep communication authentic and genuine. At the same time, over-analysing  shouldn’t be encouraged. It’s a lot like romance. Say it simply, sweetly and seductively. And ensure the product matches its promises! 

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