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Ogilvy was quoting, not creating, famous “it’s not creative” maxim

Got an email the other day from Larry Hampel, ECD of Cramer-Krasselt in NYC. He says in part:

I happened to stumble across your blog while killing some time this morning, and I saw your piece on David Ogilvy. Nice Job. “Confessions…” was the first book I read when coming up in the biz and so much of it still makes sense today.

However…. I feel the need to correct you on one important thing. You are correct, Ogilvy did not say “it’s not creative unless it sells.” But he also did not come up with the phrase “if it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

That phrase appears in Ogilvy on Advertising… and it’s actually Ogilvy’s Misquote of the former, more famous, “it’s not creative unless it sells.”

I know because my father coined that phrase while Executive creative director at Benton and Bowles in the ’70’s. In fact, that line became their mantra. (and, in fact, if you go back I think Ogilvy attributes it to B&B in the book).

Anyway, just wanted to clear that up.

I had picked up the quote from Ogilvy’s Magna Carta of Advertising, which is today available only in internet form, but I looked at “On Advertising” and sure enough, Ogilvy does give credit to B&B. So there. My Ogilvy Tribute Page has been updated accordingly.

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  1. […] that I’m not alone in this quest, I found a blog post that also notes that it was a Benton and Bowles quote. Even worse, while Ogilvy attributed the […]

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