• David de Souza

Confessions of an Advertising Man

Updated: Jul 7



Both this book and 'Ogilvy on Advertising' have actionable tips not just for advertising but for life and business in general. My biggest takeaway: Tell people about your imperfections. You become more believable and trustworthy. Want to dig deeper? Check out:



Core Principles


I have taken the core lessons from this book and distilled them into 11 core principles:


  1. Unless your campaign has a big idea, it will go unnoticed.

  2. Break free from reason and unblock your imagination to be creative.

  3. Your ad can not be all things to all people. It can't be a male brand and a female brand. The result will be a brand without personality.

  4. Concentrate on creating a sharply defined personality, it will get the majority of sales at the highest margin.

  5. The more facts you provide the more you'll sell.

  6. Committees can criticize ads but don't allow them to write them.

  7. Your add should not be cute or funny. People don't buy from clowns.

  8. Start with axioms that people can not question and then move on to more questionable ones.

  9. Tell prospective clients about your imperfections. You become more believable and trustworthy.

  10. Use Captions under photos.

  11. Use the following acronym to help you write headlines: (PECANS BF BN)


Remember These Core Principles:


I've condensed the core principles into an image, making memorization easier. Use this image, its caption, and Quizlet as a memory aid to help you remember the 80/20 from this book:



Don't question the clown committees' imperfect personality and their Caption idea: break pecans not stems.

Q: What is 'Don't' referring to?

A: Use the following acronym (GAPS) to remind you: Don't leave these gaps in your writing:

  • Generalizations

  • Analogies

  • Platitudes

  • Superlatives


Q: What does 'question' refer to?

A: Start with axioms that people can not question and then move on to more questionable ones.


Q: What does 'clown' refer to?

A: Your add should not be cute or funny. People don't buy from clowns.


Q: What does 'Committees' refer to?

A: Committees can criticize ads but don't allow them to write them.


Q: What does 'imperfect' refer to?

A: Tell prospective clients about your imperfections. You become more believable and trustworthy.


Q: What does 'personality' refer to?

A: Concentrate on creating a sharply defined personality, it will get the majority of sales at the highest margin.


Q: What does 'captions' refer to?

A: Use Captions under photos.


Q: What does 'idea' refer to?

A: Unless your campaign has a big idea, it will go unnoticed.


Q: What does 'break' refer to?

A: Break free from reason and unblock your imagination to be creative.


Q: What does 'pecans' refer to?

A: Use the following acronym (Pecans BF BN) to help you write headlines:


  • Puns and other obscurities should be avoided

  • Emotional words

  • Curiosity - End with a hook to read on

  • Appeals to self Interest

  • New - Consumers are always looking for the new thing

  • Selling Promise

  • Blind Headlines (ones without no meaning) should be avoided

  • Flag down perspective clients: Hemroids?

  • Brand Name in Headline

  • Negatives should be avoided.


Q: What does 'Stem (FF)' refer to? A: Use the following acronym:

  • Specificity

  • Testimonials

  • Everyday Language

  • Memorability

  • Facts

  • Friendliness


Q: What does 'idea' refer to?

A: Unless your campaign has a big idea, it will go unnoticed.



Let me know how these summaries can be improved? Contact me via Email (david@thisdomain.co) or on Twitter

The 80/20 of Worldly Wisdom: