Marching Against Philip

A Discussion on the Good, Bad, and Ugly of Writing

“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”

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Possibly the most famous automobile ad, and David Ogilvy’s best remembered ads. What makes this ad kick-ass, and how can you apply its concepts to web-writing?

1. Do your homework

David Ogilvy spent three weeks reading about the car. Know your product, know what you’re selling. Essentially, know your stuff before you start telling.

2. Spend lots of effort coming up with the right headline

In the words of D.O himself

“On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client’s money.”

What’s the headline on your homepage or email newsletter? 37signals and Gmail have some good examples of great headlines on the homepage.

3. Tell People About the Price

Some people think that price drives readers away. I say price qualifies the right people who are convinced by your copy. Giving price details also convinces your reader of the image and brand value of your product.

4. Short and Sweet Points

Ogilvy’s ad is very factual. Would you read the ad if it was just chunks of big paragraphs, like we always see in academic texts? Didn’t think so. This ad has all its points numbered clearly. Keep sentences short, write very short paragraphs. Even if it means starting sentences with prepositions.


“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”

What makes Rolls-Royce the best car in the world? “There is really no magic about it- it is merely patient attention to detail,” says an eminent Rolls-Royce engineer.

1. “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise comes from the electric clock,” reports the Technical Editor of THE MOTOR. Three mufflers tune out sound frequencies – acoustically.

2. Every Rolls-Royce engine is run for seven hours at full throttle before installation, and each car is test driven for hundreds of miles

3. The Rolls-Royce is designed as an owner-driven car. It is eighteen inches shorter than the largest domestic cars.

4. The car has power steering, power brakes and automatic gear-shift. It is very easy to drive and to park. No chauffeur required.

5. The finished car spends a week in the final test-shop, being fine-tuned. Here it is subjected to 98 separate ordeals. For example, the engineers use a stethoscope to listen for axle-whine.

6. The Rolls-Royce is guaranteed for three years. With a new network of dealers and parts-depots from Coast to coast, service is no problem.

7. The Rolls-Royce radiator has never changed, except that when Sir Henry Royce died in 1933 the monogram RR was changed from red to black.

8. The coachwork is given five coats of primer paint, and hand rubbed between each coat, before nine coats of finishing paint go on.

9. By moving a switch on the steering column, you can adjust the shock-absorbers to suit road conditions.

10. A picnic table, veneered in French walnut, slides out from under the dash. Two more swing out behind the front seats.

11. You can get such optional extras as an Espresso coffee-making machine, a dictating machine, a bed, hot and cold water for washing, an electric razor or a telephone.

12. There are three separate systems of power brakes, two hydraulic and one mechanical. Damage to one will not affect the others. The Rolls-Royce is a very safe car- and also a very lively car. It cruises serenely at eighty-five. Top speed is in excess of 100 m.p.h.

13. The Bentley is made by Rolls-Royce. Except for the radiators, they are identical motor cars, manufactured by the same engineers in the same works. People who feel diffident about driving a Rolls-Royce can buy a Bentley.

PRICE. The Rolls-Royce illustrated in this advertisement – f.o.b. principal ports of entry – costs $13,995.

If you would like the rewarding experience of driving a Rolls-Royce or Bentley, write or telephone to one of the dealers listed on opposite page. Rolls Royce Inc., 10 Rockefeller Plaza, New York 20, N.Y. Circle 5-1144.



Written by kziqi

May 4, 2010 at 2:07 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] More about David Ogilvy’s magic rules of successful advertising on Marching Against Philip. […]

  2. “the only sound one can hear in the new Pierce-Arrow is the ticking of the electric clock”
    -1933 – twenty years before D.O. lifted it.


    February 6, 2012 at 8:20 am

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