Ogilvy on Dating: The Consumer isn’t a Moron, She is [Hopefully] your Wife

Hello lonelyhearts. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Dating is really the oldest form of direct marketing. You’re marketing yourself — it’s a specialized form of advertising. So who better to get dating advice from than the King of Madison Avenue, David Ogilvy himself

To this end, we have collected a number of direct quotes from Ogilvy’s writing, and combined them into the greatest dating/marketing manual of all time. Now you can use it to YOUR advantage!

To help get in the spirit of things, we have replaced a few words and phrases with their romantic equivalents. These amendments always appear in ALL CAPS. Aside from this, the section titles, a few clearly-marked notes, and the order in which the passages appear, everything is Ogilvy’s.


HOW TO GET DATES

What really decides FOLKS to DATE or not to DATE is the content of your advertising, not its form. Your most important job is to decide what you are going to say about your YOU, what benefit you are going to promise. Two hundred years ago Dr. Johnson said, “Promise, large promise is the soul of an advertisement.” When he auctioned off the contents of the Anchor Brewery he made the following promise: “We are not here to sell boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”

Handling PARTNERS once you have got them is deadly serious business. You are spending other people’s TIME, and the fate of their RELATIONSHIP often rests in your hands. But I regard the hunt for new DATES as a sport. If you play it grimly, you will die of ulcers. If you play it with lighthearted gusto, you will survive your failures without losing sleep. Play to win, but enjoy the fun.

The function of most advertising is not to persuade people to DATE your YOU, but to persuade them to DATE YOU more often than the other SINGLES in their repertoire.

You cannot generalize. … The PLAYERS which are most successful in new DATES are those whose THEM show the most sensitive insight into the psychological make-up of the prospective CUTIE. Rigidity and salesmanship do not combine.

There is one stratagem which seems to work in almost every case: get the prospect to do most of the talking. The more you listen, the wiser he thinks you are.

I never accept A DATE unless I believe that I can do a conspicuously better job than the previous BOYFRIEND.

I have never wanted to get A GIRLFRIEND so big that I could not afford to lose HER. The day you do that, you commit yourself to living with fear. Frightened GUYS lose the courage to give candid advice; once you lose that you become a lackey.

A posture of enthusiasm is not always the one best calculated to succeed. Five or six times I have turned down SUITORS which did not meet MY qualifications, only to find that the act of rejection inflamed the SINGLE’S desire to SMOOCH. 

When a FELLA PICKS YOU, it is because he has decided that YOU ARE the best available to him. His advisers have reached this decision after making a thorough study of what YOU have to offer. But as time goes by, he acquires new advisers. Every time this happens, it is expedient for YOU to convince the new adviser that his predecessor was right in selecting YA GIRL.

This meme but unironically

The most important word in the vocabulary of DATING is “test”. If you pretest your PHOTOS with THE INTERNET, and pretest your PROFILE, you will do well in the marketplace. [SMTM’s Note: Perhaps with Photofeeler]

Twenty-four out of twenty-five new BACHELORS never get out of test markets. Manufacturers who don’t test-market their BACHELORS incur the colossal cost (and disgrace) of having their BACHELORS fail on a national scale, instead of dying inconspicuously and economically in test markets.

Test your promise. Test your media. Test your PROFILE and your PICS. Test the size of your DATE NIGHTS. Test your frequency. Test your level of expenditure. Test your MEMES. Never stop testing, and your DATING will never stop improving.

HOW TO HAVE HOT PHOTOS

In the early days of DATING APPS, I made the mistake of relying on words to do the selling; I had been accustomed to radio, where there are no pictures. I now know that in APPS you must make your pictures tell the story; what you show is more important than what you say. Words and pictures must march together, reinforcing each other. The only function of the words is to explain what the pictures are showing.

MOST SINGLES think in terms of words, and devote little time to planning their HOT PICS. Yet the illustration often occupies more ATTENTION than the copy, and it should work just as hard to sell the YOU. It should telegraph the same promise that you make in your PROFILE.

Dr. Gallup has discovered that the kind of photographs which win awards from camera clubs—sensitive, subtle, and beautifully composed—don’t work in PROFILES. What do work are photographs which arouse the reader’s curiosity. He glances at the photograph and says to himself, “What goes on here?” Then he reads your PROFILE to find out. This is the trap to set.

Harold Rudolph called this magic element “story appeal,” and demonstrated that the more of it you inject into your photographs, the more people will look at your PROFILE.

Keep your PHOTOS as simple as possible, with the focus of interest on one person. Crowd scenes don’t pull. Avoid stereotyped situations like grinning housewives pointing fatuously into open refrigerators. [SMTM’s Note: the ‘60s female equivalent of the guy holding the big fish]

HOW TO WRITE A PROFILE

I belong to [a] school, which holds that a good PROFILE is one which sells the SINGLE without drawing attention to itself. It should rivet the reader’s attention on the SINGLE. Instead of saying, “What a clever PROFILE,” the reader says, “I never knew that before. I must DATE THE HELL OUT OF THEM.”

When you sit down to write your PROFILE, pretend that you are talking to the woman on your right at a dinner party. She has asked you, “I am thinking of SEDUCING a new BOYFRIEND. WHO would you recommend?” Write your PROFILE as if you were answering that question.

(1) Don’t beat about the bush—go straight to the point. 

(2) Avoid superlatives, generalizations, and platitudes. Be specific and factual. Be enthusiastic, friendly, and memorable. Don’t be a bore. Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating.

We make PROFILES that people want to read. You can’t save souls in an empty church. 

Profile Facts

Very few PROFILES contain enough factual information to sell the SINGLE. There is a ludicrous tradition among MATCHMAKERS that consumers aren’t interested in facts. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

When I was a door-to-door VALENTINE I discovered that the more information I gave about my SELF, the more I sold. Claude Hopkins made the same discovery about advertising, fifty years ago. But most modern DUDES find it easier to write short, lazy PROFILES. Collecting facts is hard.

The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your FUTURE wife HOPEFULLY. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to DATE anything. She wants all the information you can give her.

Competing BACHELORS are becoming more and more alike. The men who ARE them have access to the same scientific journals; they use the same production techniques; and they are guided by the same research. When faced with the inconvenient fact that their SELF is about the same as several others, most BACHELORS conclude that there is no point in telling the consumer what is common to all DUDES; so they confine themselves to some trivial point of difference. I hope that they will continue to make this mistake, because it enables YOU to pre-empt the truth for YOUR DATES.

Competing BACHELORS are becoming more and more alike. 

You cannot bore people into DATING. The average GIRL is now exposed to more than 1500 BLOKES a day. No wonder they have acquired a talent for skipping the DUDES in newspapers and magazines, and going to the bathroom during television PERSONALS.

The average woman now reads only four of the PERSONALS which appear in the average magazine. She glances at more, but one glance is enough to tell her that the PROFILE is too boring to read.

Competition for the SINGLE LADY’S attention is becoming more ferocious every year. She is being bombarded by a billion dollars’ worth of DUDES a month. Thirty thousand DUDES are competing for a place in her memory. If you want your voice to be heard above this ear-splitting barrage, your voice must be unique.

Profile Headlines

Keep your opening paragraph down to a maximum of eleven words. A long first paragraph frightens readers away. All your paragraphs should be as short as possible; long paragraphs are fatiguing. 

Include your DATING promise in your headline. This requires long headlines. When the New York University School of Retailing ran headline tests with the cooperation of a big department store, they found that headlines of ten words or longer, containing news and information, consistently sold more merchandise than short headlines.

People are more likely to read your PROFILE if your headline arouses their curiosity; so you should end your headline with a lure to read on.

Profile Focus

The most effective PROFILES are built around only one or two points, simply stated. A hodgepodge of many points leaves the viewer unmoved. That is why PROFILES should never be created in committee. Compromise has no place in advertising. Whatever you do, go the whole hog.

The purpose of a PROFILE is not to entertain the viewer, but to sell him.

Most PROFILES are too complicated. They reflect a long list of objectives, and try to reconcile the divergent views of too many FRIENDS. By attempting to cover too many things, they achieve nothing. Their PROFILES look like the minutes of a committee.

How do you decide what kind of image to build? There is no short answer. Research cannot help you much here. You have actually got to use judgment. (I notice increasing reluctance on the part of GUYS AND GALS to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post, for support rather than for illumination.)

Most SINGLES are reluctant to accept any limitation on the image of their SELF. They want it to be all things to all people. They want their SELF to be a male brand and a female brand. An upper-crust brand and a plebeian brand. They generally end up with a SELF which has no personality of any kind.

Ninety-five per cent of all the PROFILES now in circulation are being created without any reference to such long-term considerations. They are being created ad hoc. … Hence the lack of any coherent personality.

Research shows that it is dangerous to use negatives in PROFILES. If, for example, you write “our DATE contains no arsenic”, many readers will miss the negative and go away with the impression that you wrote “our DATE contains arsenic”.

It is a mistake to use highfalutin language when you advertise to uneducated people. I once used the word “obsolete” in a headline, only to discover that 43 per cent of housewives had no idea what it meant. In another headline, I used the word “ineffable”, only to discover that I didn’t know what it meant myself.

Some DATERS write tricky PROFILES—puns, literary allusions, and other obscurities. This is a sin. In the average APP your PROFILE has to compete for attention with UH, VERY MANY others. Research has shown that readers travel so fast through this jungle that they don’t stop to decipher the meaning of obscure PROFILES. Your PROFILE must telegraph what you want to say, and it must telegraph it in plain language. Don’t play games with the reader.

Can A GOOD PROFILE foist an inferior BACHELOR on the consumer? Bitter experience has taught me that it cannot. On those rare occasions when I have advertised BACHELORS which consumer tests found inferior to other BACHELORS in the same field, the results have been disastrous. If I try hard enough, I can write an advertisement which will persuade consumers to DATE an inferior BACHELOR, but only once—and most of my clients depend on repeat DATES for their ROMANCE. Phineas T. Barnum was the first to observe that “you may advertise a spurious article and induce many people to buy it once, but they will gradually denounce you as an impostor.” Alfred Politz and Howard Morgens believe that advertising can actually accelerate the demise of an inferior BACHELOR. Says Morgens, “The quickest way to EXPOSE a BACHELOR that is off in quality is to promote HIM aggressively. People find out about HIS poor quality just that much more quickly.”

HOW TO BE A GOOD DATE

There are certain universal rules. Dress quietly and shave well. Do not wear a bowler hat. Go to the back door (most DUDES go to the front door, a manoeuvre always resented by maid and mistress alike). Tell the person who opens the door frankly and briefly what you have come for; it will get her on your side. Never on any account get in on false pretences.

However thoroughly you investigate prospective DATES, it is almost impossible to find out whether they qualify on all these counts until you meet them face to face. You then find yourself in a delicate position, simultaneously selling your SELF and eliciting from the prospect enough information about himself and his SELF to decide whether you want his LOVIN’. It pays to listen more than you talk.

The worst fault a ROMEO can commit is to be a bore. Pretend to be vastly interested in any subject the prospect shows an interest in.

The more she talks the better, and if you can make her laugh you are several points up. Perhaps the most important thing of all is to avoid standardisation in your sales talk. If you find yourself one fine day saying the same things to a bishop and a trapezist, you are done for.

You must always be faced sooner or later with questions and objections, which may indeed be taken as a sign that the prospect’s brain is in working order, and that she is conscientiously considering YOU as a practical proposition for herself. 

Some DUDES expound their subject academically, so that at the end the prospect feels no more inclination to DATE than she would to SUCK FACE WITH the planet Jupiter after a broadcast from the Astronomer Royal. A talkative prospective is a good thing.

Try and avoid being drawn into discussing competitive makes of BOYFRIEND, as it introduces a negative and defensive atmosphere. On no account sling mud – it can carry very little weight, coming from you, and it will make the prospect distrust your integrity and dislike you.

The best way to tackle the problem is to find out all you possibly can about the merits, faults and sales arguments of competitors, and then keep quiet about them. Profound knowledge of other BLOKES will help you put your positive case for YOU more convincingly

Don’t sing your DATING message. DATING is a serious business. How would you react if you went into a Sears store to DATE a frying pan and the salesman started singing jingles at you?

Candor compels me to admit that I have no conclusive research to support my view that jingles are less persuasive than the spoken word. It is based on the difficulty I always experience in hearing the words in jingles, and on my experience as a door-to-door VALENTINE; I never sang to my prospects. The BACHELORS who believe in the DATING power of jingles have never had to DATE anything.

The more prospects you talk to, the more SINGLES you expose yourself to, the more DATES you will get. But never mistake quantity of DATES for quality of DATESmanship.

When the prospect tries to bring the interview to a close, go gracefully. It can only hurt you to be kicked out.

Most SINGLES and their FRIENDS spend too much time worrying about how to revive DATES which are in trouble, and too little time worrying about how to make successful DATES even more successful. In advertising, it is the mark of a brave man to look unfavorable test results in the face, cut your loss, and move on.

Concentrate your time, your brains, and your DATING money on your successes. Recognize success when it comes, and pour on the DATING.

HOW TO BE A GOOD PARTNER

The more your PARTNER knows about your SELF and your TASTES, the better job THEY will do for you. When General Foods hired our agency to advertise Maxwell House Coffee, they undertook to teach us the coffee business. Day after day we sat at the feet of their experts, being lectured about green coffee, and blending, and roasting, and pricing, and the arcane economics of the industry.

If you think that your SUGAR PIE is performing badly, or if you think that a particular DATE is feeble, don’t beat about the bush. Speak your mind, loud and clear. Disastrous consequences can arise when a MAN pussyfoots in his day-to-day dealings with his HONEY BUNCH.

I do not suggest that you should threaten. Don’t say, “You are an incompetent mucker, and I will get another GIRLFRIEND unless you come back tomorrow with a great DATE.” Such brutality will only paralyze the troops. It is better to say, “What you have just shown me is not up to your usual high standard. Please take another crack at it.”

At the same time you should explain exactly what you find inadequate about the submission; don’t leave your PARTNER to guess. This kind of candor will encourage your PARTNER to be equally candid with you. And no partnership can fructify without candor on both sides.