What I Learned from David Ogilvy and a Pig

Posted on October 22, 2013

Integrity earns respect. David Ogilvy liked to quote one of his clients: “In the end, clients are grateful to advertising agents who tell them the truth.”  Here’s the lesson. Learning from what doesn’t work is just as important as learning from winners.

I’ll make you a promise, but first a story. I grew up as the oldest of four brothers and the son of a police officer. At 13, my friends called my dad a pig. Yeah, it was the 70s and I was a teen during the Peace and Love generation. While it wasn’t nice, almost everybody who was a hippy, on the fringe or in trouble, called police officers—pigs.

Upset, I went home and told my dad. “My friends called you a pig dad, what does that mean.” I’ll never forget his face, and his smile as he said, “Eddie follow me.” He took me to the mirror in his closet and on it was a note that read PIG. Pride. Integrity. Guts. Then he said, “just remember, in this life there are going to be people who don’t understand, people who have no faith, people who will try to bring you down and live a lie. All you have to do is remember this note. I look at the guy in the mirror each morning and I try to live a life filled with honesty and integrity.”

Dad’s been retired for some time, but I know that he still has that note attached to his mirror. Here’s the promise. If I am going to lead your institutions effort to re-brand or build identity. If you select my company, CCA, to be a brand communications partner to your college or university. Whether the challenge is to improve enrollment or raise your academic profile, or increase your giving rate or create a new identity—whatever it is; we will do it with honesty and integrity. We’ll find the truth of your institution. We’ll work hard to discover the unique difference that is true and honest and simple—and you.

I learned one of life’s hardest lessons at an early age from one of the toughest, smartest policeman on the planet. Later, I would learn that very same lesson applied to branding by one of the worlds greatest admen. Great brands tell great stories because, most of all, they have the pride the integrity and the guts to tell the truth. The whole truth. And nothing but… So help me God.

We're Listening. Let's Talk.