40 Advertising Quotes About Honesty, Content, and Creativity

The medium changes, but the message remains the same


Tara Moore/Getty Images

It is tempting to think that old advertising quotes from ad industry giants like Bill Bernbach or David Ogilvy may no longer be of use in the age of social media and online advertising. But a glance at some of their more famous sayings quickly reveals that while the medium has changed, the power of the message remains.

Advertising Quotes on Honesty

"There is a great deal of advertising that is much better than the product. When that happens, all that the good advertising will do is put you out of business faster." -Jerry Della Femina

"The most powerful element in advertising is the truth." -Bill Bernbach

"Facts are irrelevant. What matters is what the consumer believes." -Seth Godin

"I am one who believes that one of the greatest dangers of advertising is not that of misleading people, but that of boring them to death." -Leo Burnett

"Telling lies does not work in advertising." -Tim Bell

"That's the kind of ad I like, facts, facts, facts." - Samuel Goldwyn

"Our job is to bring the dead facts to life." -Bill Bernbach

"The greatest thing to be achieved in advertising, in my opinion, is believability, and nothing is more believable than the product itself." -Leo Burnett

"The worst thing for a brand is to have a kind of false part of who they are exposed out there." -Lee Clow

"Certainly, it seems true enough that there's a good deal of irony in the world ... I mean, if you live in a world full of politicians and advertising, there's obviously a lot of deception." -Kenneth Koch 

"Never write an advertisement which you wouldn't want your own family to read. You wouldn't tell lies to your own wife. Don't tell them to mine. Do as you would be done by. If you tell lies about a product, you will be found out." -David Ogilvy

"The advertisement is the most truthful part of a newspaper." -Thomas Jefferson

Advertising Quotes on Content

"What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form." -David Ogilvy

"A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself." -David Ogilvy

"Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read." -Leo Burnett

"We want consumers to say, 'That's a hell of a product' instead of, 'That's a hell of an ad.'" -Leo Burnett

"The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be." -David Ogilvy

"What you say in advertising is more important than how you say it." -David Ogilvy

"Let's say you have $1 million tied up in your little company and suddenly your advertising isn't working and sales are going down. And everything depends on it. Your future depends on it, your family's future depends on it, other people's families depend on it. Now, what do you want from me? Fine writing? Or do you want to see the goddamned sales curve stop moving down and start moving up?" -Rosser Reeves

“Don’t tell me how good you make it; tell me how good it makes me when I use it.” -Leo Burnett

"An ad is finished only when you no longer can find a single element to remove." -Robert Fleege

"On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy." -David Ogilvy

"If you are writing about baloney, don't try and make it Cornish hen, because that's the worst kind of baloney there is. Just make it darn good baloney." -Leo Burnett

"If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language in which they think." -David Ogilvy

"I don't know how to speak to everybody, only to somebody." -Howard Gossage

"You have to be daring and make something that doesn’t look like anybody else." -Lee Clow

"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. I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea." -David Ogilvy

“Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people” -William Butler Yeats

 Advertising Quotes on Creativity

"Advertising is the ability to sense, interpret ... to put the very heart throbs of a business into type, paper, and ink." -Leo Burnett

"Creativity is like washing a pig. It’s messy. It has no rules. No clear beginning, middle or end. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, and when you’re done, you’re not sure if the pig is really clean or even why you were washing a pig in the first place." -Luke Sullivan

"Nothing comes from nothing. You must continuously feed the inner beast that sparks and inspires." -George Lois

"Creativity and innovation are about finding unexpected solutions to obvious problems, or finding obvious solutions to unexpected problems." -Rei Inamoto

"If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative." -David Ogilvy

"There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately, they talk the best game. They know all the rules ... but there's one little rub. They forget that advertising is persuasion, and persuasion is not a science, but an art. Advertising is the art of persuasion." -William Bernbach

"I don't know the rules of grammar ... 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

"An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it." -Bill Bernbach

"To swear off making mistakes is very easy. All you have to do is to swear off having ideas." -Leo Burnett

"In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create." -David Ogilvy

"I've learned that any fool can write a bad ad, but that it takes a real genius to keep his hands off a good one." -Leo Burnett

"Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process." -David Ogilvy