Blogging like Ogilvy: What Bloggers can Learn from Agencies By on October 1, 2013

david ogilvyDavid Ogilvy is one of the biggest names in advertising, and since advertising is all about “big names”, that’s saying a lot. He created some of the most iconic advertising slogans and imagery in the world, and in 1962, Time magazine called him “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry.”

Even though Ogilvy created ads at another time, for another audience, his messages have endured for many decades. And the lessons learned from a lifetime in advertising agencies are still applicable today. Bloggers can learn a lot from the world of advertising agencies – about how to target an audience, to think creatively about content, and to manage your time and projects effectively.

What can bloggers learn from Ogilvy and his advertising agency crew? Let’s find out:

Core Values


“I believe consumers will respond with their pocketbooks to advertisements that reflect ethical considerations. Companies that follow high ethical principles in their advertisements will do well by doing good.” – Wallace S Snyder, American Advertising Federation. 

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” – Steve Jobs.

At the heart of any good and successful agency is a core set of values. The agency and the team behind it truly believe that good advertising will change the world. The agency world is cutthroat, and it can be tempting to compromise on your ideals to win huge contracts and screw over your competition. But the best and most successful agencies are those that have stayed true to their core values.

How can bloggers also benefit from a set of core values? Your core blogging values are what shapes the trust between you and your readers – and the more they trust you, the more they will come back again and again. Developing this trust is difficult, and once you earn that trust, you cannot break it, or you’ll never be able to get it back.

This is most commonly an issue for bloggers when it comes to earning income. What is your policy on affiliate marketing and sponsored posts? You have to be very careful when including paid content on your blog, as it can put readers off and make them feel as if they can’t trust your word. Before accepting any opportunity, ask yourself if it fits in with your blog’s values.

Solve a Problem


“If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.” – David Ogilvy

Before they start work on a project, the creative team at the agency sit down with the client and work out a creative brief. This brief sets out the parameters of the project – so that both parties are on the same page – and creates a blueprint for the agency to work from. The brief provides a detailed description of the intended audience, a breakdown of what the project entails, and the goals of the campaign.

Bloggers too can use the creative brief to hone their content strategy and deal with client work. A creative brief acts a bit like a business plan for your blog – it creates a profile of your ideal reader and a plan for how you can create content that appeals to that reader.

When writing a creative brief for your blog, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the budget for the project? What do you need to do for that budget?
  • Who is the audience? What is their age, sex, demographic? What do they enjoy doing in life? What do they detest? Draw up a detailed profile of your audience.
  • What has worked before? What is currently working on your blog or on previous blogs?
  • What is essential? List the elements and features you know you definitely need.
  • What’s the objective? What are you trying to achieve with your blog? Do you want a client base? Do you want to make a living from advertising? Do you want to launch a product or generate traffic for your business?
  • Outline the project. What are the parameters?
  • Think about branding, positioning and direct response (call-to-action). How will you integrate these into your blog?
  • Talk to your audience about what they like and don’t like. Use these insights to improve your blogger brief.

Here are some more tips on writing an effective creative brief.

If in Doubt, Rebrand


Agencies are constantly rebranding. Why? Because trends change, and people look to marketing and advertising folk to be the trendsetters. So you don’t want to be the agency channeling the Backstreet Boys when everyone is talking about One Direction.

Bloggers should also strive to be seen as the trendsetters in the digital niche. Rebranding your blog gives your site a fresh look and feel, and helps you to appeal to a new, fresh audience. Rebranding also helps you to grow with your audience – as their tastes change, you change to meet them.

But rebranding is also a tremendous pain in the ass, and you don’t want to do it unless it’s absolutely necessary. So how does a blogger rebrand like an agency?

  • Work rebrands into your launch and marketing calendars. A rebranding blog is a great tool for bringing new traffic to a website, so time this to coincide with a big launch.
  • Think “outside the blog”. As a blog gets bigger, it often incorporates other business lines that have less to do with the blog format. Think about new ways to organize and present your content.
  • Simplify. Get rid of extraneous services, widgets and pages. Keep everything sleek and clean. Unless you’re creating a new trend, of course.
  • Always keep your audience in mind. And remember that your audience changes. A blog rebrand should address what your audience is NOW – not where they were five years ago.
  • Changes in branding should equate to changes in strategy. Your rebrand should help you move your blog forward toward your ultimate goal (whatever that may be). If it doesn’t, its just fluff and you don’t need to do it.

Workflow Management

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“First, make yourself a reputation for being a creative genius. Second, surround yourself with partners who are better than you are. Third, leave them to go get on with it.” – David Ogilvy

With high overheads and many different creative people working on one project, it can be a wonder agencies make any money at all. Yet the top agencies are earning huge sums, and maximizing their profits through clever workflow management.

Bloggers – especially bloggers who work with several guest posters or multiple contributors – need a robust method for managing their workflow. Email and to-do lists and wordpress tools will only get you so far. Here are my tips for managing workflow like an agency:

  • Do what you do best, and outsource the rest. The key to a growing blog is putting together a stunning creative team. Find others who are just as keen to see your blog succeed as you are, and make sure they are well rewarded for their efforts.
  • If you work with a team of bloggers, WorkflowMax offers a robust online workflow management system to manage projects and collaborate across multiple devices and timezones.
  • Free tools like Evernote help you to organize your inspiration and make notes that you can access at any time, from any device.
  • Create daily, weekly and monthly goals to help keep you on track for blogging success.

The Big Schmooze

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Agencies know how to schmooze and network. Agency executives and account managers spend a significant amount of time at networking events – talking to business owners about their pain points and making sure they are the first name on anyone’s lips when it comes time to sort out next year’s advertising plan. Oh, and swigging back plenty of free champagne, too.

For bloggers, networking is the single most effective tool to increase views and social influence. So how does a blogger network like an agency?

  • Instead of talking to your readers about how awesome YOU are, ask them about their problems. What do they want to learn about?
  • Make a list of influencers in your niche – start with 5-10. Make it a priority to forge a relationship with these influencers by offering helpful advice and assistance on their projects.
  • Attend blogger conferences and meet-ups. Seek out influencers and bloggers in your niche and make sure you exchange business cards.
  • Create small blogging action groups to support and nurture other bloggers. You can pool resources to create guest posts, promote each other’s blogs and share opportunities.
  • Use social media tools like hashtags to get your blog links in front of more people and approach other bloggers about guest posts and link swaps.

What Agencies can learn from Bloggers


“It is clear that retailers need to move beyond just ‘advertising’, and a consumer-centric measure of engagement-based, integrated media and cross-media consumption can facilitate that shift.” – Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys, Inc.

So far, we’ve talked about what bloggers can learn from agencies, but this isn’t a one-way relationship; agencies can learn just as much from bloggers. Here’s what bloggers do best that will become a significant part of advertising in years to come:

  • Crowdsourcing: Bloggers use their audiences to create content. More and more we’ll see advertising agencies using images, phrases, experiences and stories created by their client’s customers.
  • Engagement: Bloggers have an immediate source of engagement and feedback. They can ask for opinions and instantly receive comments about their content. As agencies focus more on how to directly engage customers in this way, they are watching and learning from the blogger example.
  • Multi-media: Bloggers often have a “jack of all trades” approach when it comes to content. They dabble in video, images, written content, audio, and other forms of media, often integrating these together to create a complete experience. Agencies are also adopting this “multi-media” approach, by employing more specialists in these areas to offer a total solution for their clients.
  • Lifestyle design: Many people get into blogging because of the freedom it can provide. You can blog whenever you want, wherever you want, and you don’t have to answer to a boss or a schedule. Agencies are beginning to see the benefits of providing this type of freedom for their creative teams, and are offering their staff flexible work hours, telecommuting, and varying work schedules.


Bloggers may not have cut their teeth in the advertising copy room, but we can definitely learn a thing or two from the way advertising agencies run their business. Even though the advertising and media industry have changed dramatically over the last ten years, and bloggers are now a force to be reckoned with, the lessons learnt about managing workflow, sticking to your values, and having a plan still apply.

Ogilvy and co. have left their mark not just on the world of ads, but on the future of media and content creation as well.

How do you blog like an advertising agency? What techniques from advertising can help you improve your blog?

All cartoons by Tom Fisburne.

BIO: When she’s not blogging about heavy metal and off-grid living at, Steff Green is the head of content creation at WorkflowMax, online workflow management software designed with agencies and content creators in mind. Say hi to her on twitter at @steffmetal.

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