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The King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy and the Making of Modern Advertising Paperback – June 8, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Roman, former chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, paints a fascinating portrait of one of advertising's most eccentric—and beloved—characters. Born in a small English town in 1911, David Ogilvy was an indifferent student, struggling through on scholarship at the best schools in Britain, eventually getting himself expelled from Oxford. He started out as a successful salesman for the Aga cooker and became swiftly obsessed with advertising. During his long and storied career at Mather & Crowther—later Ogilvy & Mather—the flamboyantly dressed original Mad Man crafted some of the most famous and most successful campaigns in history: he made Schweppes into one of the most popular brands in America and turned Marlboro from a traditionally feminine item (red-tipped to avoid showing lipstick) into an icon of masculinity—and the world's best-selling cigarette. Meanwhile, he married three women, wrote three books, did intelligence work for Churchill and established himself as one of New York's most well-known and entertaining figures. Roman brilliantly renders American culture in the heady days of the '60s through the eyes of an energetic transplant. Lively writing and an affectionate yet honest tone make this an astonishingly charming and informative biography. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Lively writing and an affectionate yet honest tone make this an astonishingly charming and informative biography.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Engaging biography ... Thanks to The King of Madison Avenue, now we know David Ogilvy.” ―Wall Street Journal

“Roman has written a fine book on his former boss. He has a gem of a subject and, as well as a fund of anecdotes, he provides a clear-eyed, unsentimental portrait of a brilliant tyrant.” ―Financial Times

“An entertaining and admiring portrait of the legendary figure ... [Roman's] many entertaining yarns delivered in spare prose are a pleasure to read.” ―BusinessWeek

“Powerful and entertaining ... admirably researched and beautifully written.” ―James Brady, Forbes.com

“An admiring but clear-eyed portrait of David Ogilvy.” ―New York Observer

“Kenneth Roman's very readable biography presents an expansive and entertaining portrait, offering insights into the life and times ... Using Ogilvy's own books, quotes, other writings and reminiscences, copious interviews from friends, family, colleagues and competitors, Roman does a masterful job of conveying the colorful personality of Ogilvy ... Roman does his old boss proud.” ―Miami Herald

“Comprehensive ... paints a broader picture of an industry's evolution.” ―Ad Age

“Roman's admiring biography has its own charms ... a welcome assessment of the storied accomplishments that made him a legend to begin with.” ―Barnes & Noble

“A unique and interesting story.” ―Nantucket Inquirer & Mirror

“Entertaining, very well researched.” ―Winnipeg Free Press

“If you are in advertising, you need to grab Kenneth Roman's biography on David Ogilvy ... This is a fantastic book.” ―London Calling Mobile Advertising blog

“Insofar as it is possible to recreate the unique wit and always unexpected genius of David Ogilvy, Kenneth Roman has succeeded.” ―Louis Auchincloss, National Medal of Arts winner and best-selling author of The House of Five Talents, Portrait in Brownstone, East Side Story, and many more

“At last! The definitive biography of the most influential advertising executive with whom I had the pleasure of working. Ken Roman's research diligence has brought much more of David's uniqueness to light. A great read from someone who worked with David for 26 years!” ―Jack Keenan, former CEO of Kraft Foods International, and Diageo PLC Wine and Spirits

“David Ogilvy was unquestionably the King of Madison Avenue. Ken Roman's biography reflects his personal insights gained from being a colleague of Ogilvy's for several decades. This intimate portrayal makes clear Ogilvy's inspiring leadership of his agency even though he abhorred his managerial tasks. Ogilvy's convictions about what made for effective advertising -- it sells -- are clearly described by Roman, as is his brilliant personal salesmanship in winning new clients. A terrific read!” ―Ron Daniel, former Managing Partner, McKinsey & Co.

“This brilliant biography is like a gorgeous iceberg. The tip dazzles the reader and is supported by a mass of weighty research below. Kenneth Roman enchants us with his account of the life and times of David Ogilvy who towered above the world of advertising … It should be required reading for all in the business … The story is told swiftly and entertainingly. The voluminous research is set out in detailed notes at the back, and these also grip the attention of those who want to know how so much could be told with such flair, and why the author can paint a background of historical events with such certainty.” ―William Stevenson, author of A Man Called Intrepid

“This is a surprisingly interesting book about one of the most remarkable characters in advertising history. It is also an introduction to the business itself and how it has been conducted, in sickness and in health, by someone who lived the experience.” ―Martin Mayer, author of Madison Avenue USA

“A great biography of a truly great man. David Ogilvy rewrote the book on modern advertising, and with The King of Madison Avenue, Ken Roman tells his story in a fashion that is worthy of David's accomplishments. Extensively researched and very well written. Give this book to any young person thinking about going into advertising. It will inspire them.” ―Philip Carroll, former CEO of Shell Oil

“A most interesting book. It is a sensitive account of the career of this complex man who so successfully melded intuition and analysis. It should be compulsory reading for anyone contemplating a career in advertising or communications.” ―Sir Michael Angus, former Chairman, Unilever

“Nobody ever need write another word about David Ogilvy, now that Ken Roman has written The King of Madison Avenue. It's the definitive biography of the most amazing man the advertising business has ever known. With David Ogilvy as the subject, how could you miss? Ken Roman doesn't miss; this is the fairest, most thoughtful, most complete and most human biography of that flawed genius we are ever likely to get … Ken Roman has penetrated the myths and written the definitive story, warts and all, of the greatest advertising man and one of the most unforgettable characters of his time. The King of Madison Avenue is to other advertising biographies as David Ogilvy's advertising was to that of other agencies: simply superior. Everyone who ever knew David Ogilvy will find something about the man they didn't know, and those who never knew David Ogilvy will have a rollicking good time getting to know him. This has to be the most readable book ever written about advertising.” ―Bruce McCall, New Yorker writer and illustrator

“Ken Roman has hit a home run.” ―Louis Begley, prize-winning author of Wartime Lies and other novels

“A wonderful job recounting the life of so complicated a person. Beautifully written.” ―Harold Burson, founder, Burson-Marsteller Public Relations

“The book is affectionate but balanced, erudite but immensely readable, surprising, witty ... and as remarkable as its subject.” ―David Abbott, Former Chairman, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 edition (June 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230100368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230100367
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #670,930 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Drayton Bird on January 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I devoured half the book at a sitting. Besides being well-written it tells me all the things I wanted to know that David's autobiography - Blood, Brains and Beer - didn't. That curiously impersonal book disappointed many people, because it dished absolutely no dirt whatsoever.

For me, who only knew him in the twilight of his career, this book was full of interest. I always wanted to know about David and women. (The way he left his first wife was extraordinarily unkind - and crazy). I wanted to know what exactly he did in the secret service during the war - and indeed why he never fought. I wanted to know the exact relationship he had with his brilliant elder brother, Francis. I wanted to know whether he worried as much as I do.

It's all there, and more.

Claude Hopkins and John Caples may have made more impact on the nature of advertising and direct marketing. Albert Lasker made far more money. Many think Bill Bernbach's agency was more "creative". But nobody - to my mind - had such an influence on so many people

This is despite the fact that many of his ideas were not at all original. The headline of his most famous advertisement was run thirty years earlier by another car manufacturer. Other people talked about the brand and its image before him. Others - going back to the 19th century - pointed out that advertising should be about selling, not showing off. And still yet others trumpeted the importance of research

But nobody took these thoughts and theories, reflected on them, elaborated on them, explained them and propagated them so memorably, persuasively, and with such style.

I worked with David Ogilvy for quite a few years towards the end of his career. This book brought him back to life for me.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1965, I came to Madison Avenue as a young copywriter at Young & Rubicam. And those were the days of the Creative Revolution! While we writers and art directors at Y&R won a ton of creative awards--and we did--we were awed by the creative brilliance pouring forth from a non-Madison-Avenue shop, Doyle, Dane, Bernbach. Volkswagen "Think Small" ads! The Avis "We Try Harder" ads! Oh, if only we could work there!

But how did I feel--back then--about Ogilvy & Mather and the Scottish bloke behind it? Truth be told, none of the agency creatives I hung out with or worked with directly at Y&R, had ever set foot inside Ogilvy & Mather. Mr. Ogilvy, with his red braces and ads for Rolls Royce and Hathaway shirts, was an "interesting" person. But he was not a Living God like Bill Bernbach. I would have walked barefoot through rusty razor blades for the chance to have coffee with Mr. Bernbach.

And what if someone had invited me to join David Ogilvy for a sumptuous lunch at his expense? It's quite possible I would have taken a pass. The "hot kids" just weren't that entranced with David and his Hathaway eye patches.

Holy cow, was I wrong!

Kenneth Roman's action-packed book, "The King Of Madison Avenue," reveals the fascinating brilliance and mile-deep creative dimensions of David Ogilvy. I turned the pages relentlessly, making literally hundreds of marginal notes in my copy. I was bowled over by Ogilvy's unique, rich, peripatetic background--certainly he possessed a far more multi-layered wealth of experiences when compared to any other ad-business chieftain during the 20th Century. All of this is thoroughly described by author Roman with lively (sometimes juicy) anecdotes and solid reporting from hundreds of sources.
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Format: Hardcover
With the success of AMC's "Mad Men" television series, this book was probably destined to happen. Because in many ways, David Ogilvy, the subject of this bio, was the original "Mad Man." In fact, his life story could easily become the basis of a TV series.

That Ogilvy ended up being a legendary figure in advertising is all the more compelling because of his background prior to entering advertising.

In 1931, all of 20 years old and fresh out of Oxford, Ogilvy went to work in the kitchen of the Hotel Majestic in Paris, where he became a sous chef. From there he worked (in no particular order) as a door-to-door salesman of stoves, a researcher for George Gallup, an Amish-country farmer and a spy for the Brits during World War II.

Oglivy eventually landed in New York where, withith the backing of British ad agencies S.H. Benson and Mather & Crowther, he started Ogilvy, Benson & Mather.

A master salesman and asute believer in direct advertising and marketing principles, Oglivy overcame early struggles to land clients and go on to produce some of the most memorable ad campaigns in history for Hathaway shirts, Rolls Royce and Schweppes, among others.

As detailed in the book, Oglivy spent hours meticulously researching his clients and their products, searching for an idea that could be used to sell the product. Ogilvy, who also was a copywriter, would not only hit upon an idea but then brilliantly craft advertising built on those ideas.

But Ogilvy's history as an ad man is only part of the story. Ogilvy also had a rich personal life, including multiple marriages, culminating with his purchasing and living in a castle in France in his last years.
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