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Message Over Medium: Why Advertisers Must Tune Up on Principles in the Digital Age

Hal Conick

In his new book, Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age, Miles Young implores advertisers to remember the fundamentals of their craft, lest they fall victim to the “tragic and comic plots, sub-plots and counter-plots” of advertising​

It’s 17 degrees in Oxford, England—an unusually cold evening, even for December—and Miles Young is trying to keep warm within the medieval architecture of one of the city’s oldest schools. After years leading Ogilvy & Mather, one of advertising’s most prominent agencies, Young is now the warden (or the head) of the University of Oxford’s New College, a 648-year-old institution many Americans would recognize from the “Harry Potter” films. In 2016, Young left his role as CEO and chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, but his frenetic schedule surely keeps him warm, even if the insulation of the school’s historic buildings leaves something to be desired.

In addition to running one of Oxford’s premier colleges—Young operates New College on the same principle with which he led Ogilvy: “Listen in order to survive”—Young continues to work as a nonexecutive chairman at Ogilvy on an as-needed basis. Most recently, Ogilvy sent Young on a 16-hour flight to Shenzhen, China, to assure a major client that it was in good hands with the agency, that it wasn’t taking a wild risk. It’s no wonder why Ogilvy would send Young; his stately voice, affable smile and years of experience coalesce to ease the anxiety of clients. 

This same sense—we’ve done it before and it isn’t wildly risky—filigrees Young’s newly released book, Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age. The book serves as a codicil to David Ogilvy’s “master text” Ogilvy on Advertising, Young says. His thesis is to get practitioners to reread Ogilvy’s book and get back to basics. “It is still pure, pure gold,” Young writes in the book’s introduction, which he composed in Ogilvy’s retirement estate in the south of France

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Hal Conick

Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at hconick@ama.org or on Twitter at @HalConick.