January 19, 2012

Davey and Me

A few months ago, the advertising industry celebrated the 100th birthday of David Ogilvy.

I was lucky enough to know David (or as I called him, Davey) intimately. I used to think of him as a younger brother. I thought I'd share my experiences with him. With you. I mean, the experiences were with him but I'd share them with you. You know what I mean.

Most people think of David as an elegant man with a pipe and suspenders and a chateau in France. I knew a different David. I can clearly remember the Saturday nights we spent in his basement apartment in Bushwick getting high and watching Golden Girls.

David was born David von Ogilheimermann in a town in Sweden that has one of those little circles over the A. He came to America during the great lutefisk famine of 1951. Thinking his name sounded foreign, he changed it to Larry von Ogilheimermann. Then he met a drapery salesman named Ogilvy. He liked the name so much that he changed his name to Ogilvy von Ogilheimermann. Finally, in 1954 he hit on David Ogilvy.

Although David was a very famous advertising pioneer, what many don't know is that he made his fortune in dry cleaning. Being a former chemist, in 1974 he developed a new formula for dry cleaning fluid and sold over 5,000 franchises. He called his stores  "Carcinogen Hut." The stores did very well until 1981 when they all mysteriously evaporated.

One of the most famous quotes that David passed down to us was this: "The consumer is not an idiot. She's your wife." I was there when he said it, and I can tell you that for all these years he has been misquoted. What he actually said was, "The consumer is not an Indian. She's your wife."

In 1970, David and I started a band. David played the 12-string tambourine and I played the melodicronathon. Our first album, "Chinese Hernia" went platinum in certain neighborhoods of Banff.

David was a modest man. I remember one night we were in a quiet little bistro in London when a couple of "swingin' birds" (that's what we used to call "smokin'-hot nymphos." It was a simpler time) recognized him. When they asked him if he was the famous ad man he demured and said no, he was King of Denmark.

Working beside David was always an exciting and illuminating experience. He had an unquenchable passion for advertising (or as he called it, "all that bullshit"). He was particularly fond of the creative process ("that artsy bullshit") and strategy ("that marketing bullshit.")

Although David never actually did anything, he was known as a great mentor and coach. In fact, David pioneered the idea of standing on the sidelines with a laminated flow chart in front of his mouth talking into a headset.

The advertising industry may never have another David Ogilvy. And if we do it will be really weird because he's dead.

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