David Ogilvy on how clients should choose an agency

In the 1960s, advertising legend David Ogilvy offered advice on how clients should choose an agency in his book Ogilvy On Advertising. In it, he wrote:

“Sir or Madam”

(He was formal like that.)

“If you have decided to hire a new agency, permit me to suggest a simple way to go about it. Don’t delegate the selection to a committee of pettifoggers. They usually get it wrong. Do it yourself.”

(I don’t know what a pettifogger is, but if it’s anything like a committee, I don’t want to meet one.)

“Start by leafing through some magazines. Tear out the advertisements you envy, and find out which agencies did them. Watch television for three evenings, make a list of commercials you envy, and find out which agencies did them.”

(This was the sixties after-all, but today clients can apply that general principle to websites.)

“You know have a list of agencies. Find out which are working for your competitors and thus are unavailable to you. By this time you have a short list.”

(And this is where his advice hits home.)

“Meet the head of each agency and his Creative Director.”

(Or her, it was the sixties after-all.)

“Make sure the chemistry between them and you is good. Happy marriages fructify, unhappy ones don’t. Ask to see each agency’s six best print ads and six best television commercials. Pick the agency whose campaigns interest you most.”

This advice may be fifty years old, but its highly still relevant today because it respects both the process and the creative people involved in, it by promoting hiring decisions that are based on personality and past performance, not on how well a designer is judged to have passed the challenges set by a request for proposal.


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