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David Ogilvy. The Rolls Royce of Advertising.

“It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.”

The wise words of one of the industry’s founding fathers, David Ogilvy.

Founding father not merely of the industry but of Ogilvy and Mather.

Or, he might have said, like a car.

Because one of the ads with which Ogilvy made his name was for the biggest, most prestigious marque in the automotive industry, Rolls Royce.

So put these two things together: a passionate commitment to big ideas and the world’s biggest motoring marque and what do you have?

Why, bigness of course!

Mega budgets, massive sets, jawdropping special effects, big location shoots.

That sort of carry on.



Because for Ogilvy, good, much like God, was always in the detail.

Like all trailblazers, Ogilvy was a master of the unexpected.

And it’s the unexpected, subverting preconceptions, that’s at the heart of all great ads.

So Ogilvy found the key to revealing the magnificence of this most magnificent of vehicles in one of the smallest details of all.

And one of the quietest.

Its clock.

‘At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock’.

So ran the headline.

The loudest noise comes from the clock.

It’s worth noting here that the Roller’s clock was not just any old windup tick tock but a whisper-quiet electric number.

It speaks volumes.

Or rather it speaks of no volume at all.

Instead, what it speaks of is a smooth susurration utterly befitting the nomenclature of Phantom, Ghost and Wraith.

And the fact that Ogilvy has described the suppression of engine noise by talking not about the engine itself but about the clock is both surprising and telling.

With the barely-discernible whirr of the clock drowning the galloping steeds under the bonnet.

It’s one of the most powerful and compelling juxtapositions in advertising history.

Of course we know nothing of the problems (if indeed problems there were) that Ogilvy encountered in trying to sell in his ‘little big idea’ to the doubtlessly impeccably tailored suits at Rolls Royce HQ.

But one can only imagine the waves of opposition that might well have bounced off the company’s boardroom wall.

“A clock….a CLOCK…..but what of the engineering excellence, the brobdingnagian engine, the epic nought to sixty times, the top speed, the sumptuous upholstery, the handcut walnut veneers, the handbeaten coachwork, the….the….the…the….the….but a CLOCK?!”

“Yes….that’s right….a clock….”

One can but imagine the smooth as silk Fettes and Oxford-educated adman’s unruffled response.

“But a clock that tells you a good deal more than just the time.”


photo credit: graphistolage via photopin cc

Rolls Royce
Rolls Royce