“There are no dull products, only dull writers.”


Wise words from the GOAT himself.

David Ogilvy — the advertising brainiac who catapulted the sales of Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Guinness, Dove, and Pepperidge Farm into the stratosphere virtually overnight — wrote that sentence in 1983 after nearly 40 years in the business.

Yet the truth in it hasn’t swayed one bit.

That’s because it touches on a quality that successful copywriters have had since the beginning of time and will always have: versatility.

For copywriters, versatility isn’t a matter of just writing about different topics. Anyone can do that.

It’s a matter of storytelling and using a unique angle to sell a product.

Let’s go back to Ogilvy for a second.

In the 1958, he wrote a 217-word print ad for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. At the time, research showed that people saw Puerto Rico as the dirtiest, poorest island in the Caribbean. Yet people also knew that the U.S. had been building three production plants there per week.

So what did Ogilvy do? Write about the beaches? No. Write about cozy island living? Nope. Again, anyone can do that.

He wrote about the people and an economic and cultural renaissance in the making. He wrote that the people are industrious yet poetic, courageous yet tender, and driven by vision yet inspired by the past.

He also titled the ad “Girl by a gate — in old San Juan” and included an image of a girl standing at the gate entrance of a 300-year-old patio that bears the Royal Arms of Spain.

It’s perfect, really.

It’s nostalgic, charming, and mysterious — basically everything you wouldn’t expect in a tourism ad for an island.

And that’s why it works. You don’t expect it.

There’s not one word about the beaches, the rum, the hammocks, or the fishing.

That’s because good copywriting — good storytelling — doesn’t point out the obvious.

Beaches? Rum? Hammocks? Fishing? No one needs to go to Puerto Rico for that.

Cultural and economic renaissance? Industrious yet poetic people? 300-year-old buildings and unique architecture? Pack your bags, because Puerto Rico’s waiting.

And that’s just what Ogilvy intended.




Writing about writing

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Joe Lackey

Joe Lackey

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