Ogilvy on Advertising,
by David Ogilvy.

Book CoverOgilvy, the British-born founder of Ogilvy & Mather, wrote the #1 rule of advertising: Respect the consumer’s intelligence. Famous for high-toned, wordy print ads, he has been called the father of advertising and was honored as a great pitchman over the years. Ogilvy died in 1999. In this book, he describes strategies and tactics for print ad campaigns, which are very much like story layouts — heads, decks, visuals, body text — so there is much we can learn from his advertising tips and techniques over here on the editorial side. He also discusses how readers scan a page; the effective use of heads, decks, text subheads; why captions should be beneath (not over) a visual; and why conceptual covers are risky.

—John Brady

Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy, Crown Publishers, 1983


Ode, the Stories You’ll Read!

Ode CoverOde is a print and online publication about positive news, about the people and ideas that are changing our world for the better. An alternative to mainstream publications, it’s a magazine open to new inspirations and new visions from around the world. That’s why Ode’s tagline is “For Intelligent Optimists.”

An independent international magazine with offices in the Nether­lands and the U.S., Ode believes in “progress, ongoing opportunities and the creativity of humankind.” The magazine seeks to publish stories and ideas that are making a difference in solving problems, and invites its readers to make their own contribution to a more just
and sustainable world.

Printed on fully recycled paper 10 times a year in colorful issues of about 70 pages, Ode covers a wide range of topics with an international slant. The tone of the articles is generally “out-of-the-box,” partially reflecting the views and tastes of its European readers. The design has a very European look also: unafraid of long articles, eager to print big images and present material in an elegant, understated style.


Overused & Obnoxious — 10 Words to Avoid

Twenty years of writing and editing have turned me into a grump whenever I read stories containing word uses coined by PR spin doctors, government apologists or new-age gurus-of-the-month. These -able, -ate, -ize, -ent, -ology, and otherwise prefix- and suffix-enhanced words slipped in to sound “smart” are the equivalent of Botox-bloated rhetoric — they smooth out the wrinkles and hide the lack of substance.

I don’t mind an occasional “big” word — they can’t be avoided totally — and I’m even open to inventing a word when nothing else resonates. But I fight back when nouns are used incorrectly as verbs and vice versa. These word crimes are committed everywhere, from TV news to talk shows, and corporate conference rooms to kitchen tables. With the noisy drip of business-speak into leisure conversation, will we ever get a break? Here are a few examples from my hit list that I’d like to deep six.

Solution (n.) — For over a decade, I’ve tried to come up with the replacement for “solution.” It could be my ticket to fame, wealth and appreciation from those who, like me, despise this word for its overuse. I prefer “fix,” but along with that comes those nasty drug connotations. And “answer” — which has that aura of reverence (“the answer”) — is either so simple as to not be the answer, or so all-encompassing that it eliminates any other possible solution (okay, so sue me).

Meme (n.) — No, it’s not pronounced “me-me” (hard “e”) but perhaps it should be, judging by how people are flinging memes about the Blogosphere and propagating their culture (think virtual Petri dish here) through viral meming (isn’t that becoming redundant?). It’s spoken in verbal soft-shoe tones, à la “meme” rhymes with “hem.” The blog trend of “tagging” people with memes has crossed over from self-indulgence to Internet littering. What five favorite snack foods do you keep in your desk drawer? What six machines do you favor at your gym? What do you order at Starbucks? I can’t help but ask: “Who the heck cares?” Heck? You know what I was thinking.

Disconnect (n.) — “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Can you picture Strother Martin saying to Paul Newman “What we have here is a disconnect” in “Cool Hand Luke”? This usage bucks the trend of turning nouns into verbs by doing the opposite. Put this syntactic bronco in reverse and corral its use.

Empower (v.) — Haven’t we all been empowered so many times we should be royalty by now? The only way I want to be empowered is if a tiara and castle come with it.

Utilize (v.) — If you can “utilize,” you can “use.” Why employ seven letters to convey the same thing you can in three? That’s a 43% letter savings. For freelance writers who get paid by the word, your checks won’t change. Your pomposity level will go down. And your journalistic “green” efforts will go up—you’ll be conserving word power.

Impact (n., v). — And its siblings—impacted, impactful and impactfulness. We could add impactability and impact­able. Whatever, if you use it as a verb and there’s no “Smack!” or “Bonk!” on impact, the grammar police have license to give you a ticket. If, on the other hand, you utilize (just kidding) it as a noun, you’re legal. You can make an impact or have an impact, but don’t just impact alone. An impacted tooth? In need of dental care maybe, but grammatically healthy.

Agenda (n.) — As a kid, it was the list of tasks mom left for us to do after school. Later on, it was stuff to accomplish on a weekend or before leaving on vacation. Now, it’s taken on a somewhat evil veil. It’s become a dirty word, implying a personal, corporate or government bias — political agenda, wartime agenda, marketing agenda. Mom would not approve.

Incent (v.) — Some reason we can’t simply “give an incentive” or motivate? Oh no, we’ve got to verbify some perfectly good noun because its verb phrase requires an extra word or two. Once again, the biz-speak imprimatur gives us license to sound like we’re in the office even when we’re not. And it gives new meaning to taking work home.

Proactive (adj./adv.) — While it may sound like a popular acne medication, it’s also a prescription for taking action before it takes you, for anticipating the unanticipated, for constructing a just-in-case agenda [sic]. What’s wrong with the simple “being prepared,” as in the Girl Scout model (remember the cookies?). No uniform or badges required, just incentive.

And the number one O&O offense:
Offline (adv.) — As in, let’s take it offline — talk about this somewhere else at some other time. This one is appropriate when used in a group meeting, but between friends? Ooh, get a life.

So, what’s on your list? These are just the “tip of the iceberg” for me. Every writer or editor has a usage or two that really “pushes some buttons.” Now, let’s talk about clichés….

— Nancy McKeithen


This article originally ran in the Fall, 2008 issue of FPO.