Monday, June 23, 2014

Yet Another Tribute to David Ogilvy

David Mackenzie Ogilvy turned a 103 year old yesterday. The
west of the world map is still celebrating his birth anniversary thanks to different time zones.

It's 2:25am in my part of the world and I'm sitting on my bed, typing on this keyboard, wondering what more can I write about perhaps the most written about man in advertising, that the ad enthusiasts after me would like to go back and read.

I was all of 11 when David Ogilvy died. I only got to know about this man 11 years later but what I did know at that tender age of 10+1 was that I loved ads. While I've not met this legend ever, I am certain if we'd met 11 years ago, I'd have been able to strike up a decent 30 minute conversation with him. One that both he and I would've remembered for the rest of our lives/afterlives, more for the sheer attempt at expressing oneself in the little English one knew in 5th standard.

Confession of an aspiring Adnerd

To be honest, I feel many other ad caliphs before and after him have created far more memorable 'creative' ads. But there's a reason he outdoes each one of them in my mind. The reason is: Legacy.

There's something about each Ogilvy-ite in the few Ogilvy offices across India (and London) that I've met with, that tells you how exceptionally creative, hard working, and humble those people are. You can contest me on that but I firmly believe David Ogilvy is the strongest dead adman ever. One who made sure his agency grew and yet remain rooted years after his demise.

Three years ago, I'd read his book: 'Confessions of an Advertising Man,' and realised I didn't agree on a lot of things he had said. Yet, I found it to be the best primer on advertising one could've asked for. Anyhow, let's not make this post about his book that's been written about more times than the number of selfies clouding the planet.

Exemplary Work on a Boring Category, 1955

But there's one campaign I'd like to talk about. It's the one for Schweppes (a beverage brand) where Ogilvy managed to convince Commander Edward Whitehead (1908-1978), the President of Schweppes (USA) & General Manager (Overseas), to feature in his own brand's print advert.Commander was a British Royal Navy officer and a World War II veteran.

To give you a sense of how revered Commander Whitehead was - English painter Bernard Hailstone (1910 – 1987) who is mostly remembered for his paintings of Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Mountbatten and Peter Ustinov (an actor), had also painted an oil on canvas portrait of our Schweppes man. Wait, did I just call him the Schweppes man? That's right.

That's what struck Ogilvy in 1955 when he decided to not invent a character or deploy a random chiselled face to endorse the tonic water (which, needless to say, was a boring category), and got Edward to become the face of the brand's communication.

10 years on

Commander Whitehead with his pizzazz, suave appearance and distinct grey beard, did the magic. The spell lasted for over a decade and the campaign remains their most popular one to this day. And it's because of campaigns such as these, that David Ogilvy will possibly remain the most popular ad man for another half century, if not more.


Here's the text of the copy, and the main ad from the campaign underneath: 

The Man from Schweppes is Here

      Meet Commander Edward Whitehead, Schweppesman Extraordinary from London, England, where the house of Schweppes has been a great institution since 1794. 

Commander Whitehead has come to these United States to make sure that every drop of Schweppes Quinine Water bottled here has the original flavor which has long made Schweppes the only mixer for and authentic Gin-and-Tonic. 

He imports the original Schweppes elixir, and the secret of Schweppes unique carbonation is locked in his brief case. “Schweppervescence,” says the Commander, “lasts the whole drink through.” 

It took Schweppes almost a hundred years to bring the flavor of their Quinine Water to its present bittersweet perfection. 

But it will take you only thirty seconds to mix it with ice and gin in a high ball glass. Then, gentle reader, you will bless the day you read these words. 

P.S. If your favorite store or bar doesn’t yet have Schweppes, drop a card to us and we’ll make the proper arrangements. Address Schweppes, 30 East 60th Street, New York City.

Pictures courtesy:,