Wise, witty quotes from the advertising masters

Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

How true. I suppose that’s why I enjoy collecting and sharing quotations about advertising. You can read a hundred books and still not learn as much as you can from one pithy quote.

So I’m going to shut up and let the old masters (and a few extra guests) speak this week.

“Advertising is what you do when you can’t go see somebody. That’s all it is.” –Fairfax Cone

“The simplest definition of advertising, and one that will probably meet the test of critical examination, is that advertising is selling in print.” –Daniel Starch

“Advertising in the final analysis should be news. If it is not news it is worthless.” –Adolph S. Ochs

“The most common trouble with advertising is that it tries too hard to impress people.” –James Randolph Adams

“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

“In our factory, we make lipstick. In our advertising, we sell hope.” –Peter Nivio Zarlenga

“If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” –David Ogilvy

“The philosophy behind much advertising is based on the old observation that every man is really two men – the man he is and the man he wants to be.” –William Feather

“When executing advertising, it’s best to think of yourself as an uninvited guest in the living room of a prospect who has the magical power to make you disappear instantly.” –John O’Toole

“There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules … but there’s one little rub. They forget that advertising is persuasion, and persuasion is not a science, but an art. Advertising is the art of persuasion.” – William Bernbach

“People don’t buy from clowns.” –Claude C. Hopkins

“Let’s say you have $1,000,000 tied up in your little company and suddenly your advertising isn’t working and sales are going down. And everything depends on it. Your future depends on it, your family’s future depends on it, other people’s families depend on it. Now, what do you want from me? Fine writing? Or do you want to see the goddamned sales curve stop moving down and start moving up?” –Rosser Reeves

“Every time a message seems to grab us, and we think, ‘I just might try it,’ we are at the nexus of choice and persuasion that is advertising.” –Andrew Hacker

“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

“A good ad should be like a good sermon: It must not only comfort the afflicted, it also must afflict the comfortable.” –Bernice Fitz-Gibbon

“If an ad campaign is built around a weak idea – or as is so often the case, no idea at all – I don’t give a damn how good the execution is, it’s going to fail.” –Morris Hite

“The product that will not sell without advertising will not sell profitably with advertising.” –Albert Lasker

“Advertising is totally unnecessary. Unless you hope to make money.” –Jef I. Richards

“Asked about the power of advertising in research surveys, most agree that it works, but not on them.” –Eric Clark

“Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.” –Samuel Johnson

“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” –Mark Twain

“If I were starting life over again, I am inclined to think that I would go into the advertising business in preference to almost any other. The general raising of the standards of modern civilization among all groups of people during the past half century would have been impossible without the spreading of the knowledge of higher standards by means of advertising.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt

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8 Responses to “Wise, witty quotes from the advertising masters”

  1. Hollee J. Chadwick on February 23rd, 2010 9:26 am

    Thanks for sharing these. I am a quote collecting fanatic. Love these.

  2. Derry O Donnell on February 23rd, 2010 6:20 pm

    Great quotes there. One I love is “Trying to do business without advertising, is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know you’re doing it, but no one else does”. I’m not sure who said it (I should Google it really)
    .-= Derry O Donnell’s last blog … Turn websites, blogs etc into PDFs =-.

  3. Dean Rieck on February 23rd, 2010 7:09 pm

    I like that. Let me know if you find the source.

  4. Curated Stories Feb. 23, 2010 on February 23rd, 2010 7:51 pm

    [...] Wise, witty quotes from the advertising masters Published: February 23, 2010 Source: Direct Creative Blog Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” How true. I suppose that’s why I enjoy collecting and… [...]

  5. Nick on February 23rd, 2010 10:53 pm

    Creative without strategy is called ‘art.’ Creative with strategy is called ‘advertising.’

    Jef I. Richards
    .-= Nick’s last blog … The New Consumer =-.

  6. Timo Jäppinen on February 24th, 2010 3:40 am

    Excellent collection, Dean. Thank you. Here is some more quotes from admen which you may like http://www.timojappinen.com/2009/10/discover-this-private-collection-of.html



  7. Charles Cuninghame on February 25th, 2010 10:12 pm

    It’s a pity most people in the ad industry have never heard the Ogilvy quote!

  8. MLM on April 26th, 2010 1:29 pm

    very well said-A good ad should be like a good sermon..
    Very nice.

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