OgilvyFor those of you who have no knowledge of advertising and design history, let me tell you about David Ogilvy. He is hailed as “The Father of Advertising.” He helped Dove become the top selling soap in the US and helped increase Mercedes-Benz sales by four times when the car wasn’t very popular.

How did he achieve this,? Did he sell his soul? Sacrifice livestock? Did he use voodoo witchcraft?

Nope. He just knew his stuff when it came to marketing and advertising.

He understood the two most powerful areas in copywriting: story appeal and “reason why” copy. He also understood how people’s eyes move around a page. Here are three important lessons from Ogilvy that still hold true even in today’s digital marketing realm.

1) Make the Most of Your Headline

Headlines are just as important online as they are in print advertising. A direct quote from Ogilvy states:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eight cents out of your dollar.”

Headlines are just as important as your main photo when it comes to grabbing people’s attention. You’ve got to convince your audience to stay on the page or click on your ad.

According to Ogilvy, headlines that promise a benefit sell more than those that don’t. Length is important as well. Try to keep your headlines between eight and ten words for effective recall.

2) CTA’s: Not Just for Banner Ads

Calls to Action are a must for websites and banner ads. In each instance, they must offer further value, identify interesting prospects, and bring them into the sales funnel.

Speaking in familiar, everyday language is important in trying to persuade people to do something or buy something. Try to make your call to action directly relate to your direct audience.

Also, don’t forget about the age-old phrase “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” Strive for ultimate simplicity at all costs. You must quickly and easily guide your prospect to their finish line, and the prospect must understand how and why to convert.

If you want people to subscribe to your blog, then your CTA should read “Subscribe to my Blog,” not “Click here for the best read of your life!” While compelling, the second option may seem too hyperbolic and can have a negative effect.

These tips hold up for both banner ads AND websites. On a website, it’s important to keep your call to action above the fold ( The “fold” in web design is the portion of a web page that is visible in a browser window when the page first loads. The portion that requires scrolling in order to view is called “below the fold”). This is so viewers can quickly determine what you have to offer.

Examples of calls to action on websites can be buttons such as “Discover more” or “Request a Free Consultation.”

3) Image Is Everything

Without question, it is imperative that you use images on your websites and banner ads. Photos will attract more readers and create more appeal. But not any old photo will do.

Try to use photos that suggest a story. The reader will look at the picture and ask “what’s going on here?”. You’ll be more likely to hook them because they’ll be forced to read the copy to find out.

There are some images that should be avoided like the plague:

  • Stay away from boring stock photographs that LOOK like stock photographs.
  • Poor quality images are a no-no because they will lead customers to assume that your product is just as shoddy as your photo resolution.
  • Shots of a crowd are also to be avoided because they don’t have any central focal point.
  • Ogilvy suggests that you avoid larger-than-life images of faces. Audiences avoid them because they seem slightly grotesque. (Unless they’re images of puppies. Then they’re adorable.)
  • Last but not least, images without clear relevance are a complete waste of space and time. At best, they will confuse your audience. At worst, they will make your audience feel tricked and disappointed.

Even though Ogilvy’s prime was way before website call to actions ever existed, his methods can still be used today. Put these to the test in your next marketing campaign or website design. And, if at first you don’t get it right the first time, don’t give up. I believe Ogilvy said it best:

“Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.”