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What Global Marketers Can Learn From David Ogilvy 50 Years On

“As a private person, I have a passion for landscape, and I have never seen one improved by a billboard. (..) When I retire from Madison Avenue, I am going to start a secret society of masked vigilantes who will travel around the world on silent motor bicycles, chopping down posters at the dark of the moon. How many juries will convict us when we are caught in these acts of beneficent citizenship?”

– David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man, 1963

What a fantastic quote! And here almost 50 years later it holds true more than ever.

Sadly, one might argue, neither Ogilvy nor anyone else managed to start a secret society powerful enough to prevent the world from becoming increasingly cluttered. After all, with the clear exception of ad free São Paulo, how many places in the world can claim to be less cluttered than they were 50 years ago?


The thing is this: Revolutionary digital platforms have emerged since then, most of which provide opportunities unthinkable to the mass-marketers of the 60s. But despite the buzz surrounding the so-called move from mass to micro, it doesn’t change the fact that these new customer touchpoints have just added to the overall level of noise. In fact, it’s estimated that the average consumer is exposed to approximately 3000 commercial messages every single day, meaning that generating awareness in itself becomes an extremely challenging task.

That’s why my question – to what sadly continues to be the case for far too many international organisations – goes: Once you finally manage to capture that ever-decreasing attention span of today’s demanding consumer, why on earth waste it by delivering replicated content which was initially created for a different audience?

Your content might be king amongst native English speakers, but chances are this very same content won’t resonate similarly well with the remaining 78% who make up the global web but either don’t speak English or at least has it as their first language.

I’m quite sure there wouldn’t have been a consumer outcry had Ogilvy had his somewhat paradoxical retirement wish come true. Keep in mind that the consumer is in charge these days, not the other way around. So if you don’t go the extra mile to making your content engaging and relevant by localising it according to the target audience, someone else will. And the brutal reality is that today’s consumer is well aware of that.

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Immanuel Simonsen

Research Manager at Webcertain
As the Research Manager of multilingual web marketing agency Webcertain, Immanuel heads up the company’s global market research activities and large content marketing projects. He is the author of several reports and guides, including ‘The Essential Guide to Rel-Alternate-Hreflang’ and ‘The Webcertain Global Search and Social Report 2013’. Apart from being a tutor at the International Marketing School -- teaching online marketing professionals on business opportunities around the globe -- Immanuel is a regular speaker at the International Search Summit, a leading event series dedicated to multilingual search and social media marketing.

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