The Top 5 Must Read Advertising Books

By Tomas Crawford

The advertising industry has been around for over a century and the future looks promising. Ads surround us every day from the moment we wake up to the second we go to sleep. With so much information available and stories to tell, the books about advertising are endless. This probes the question of, Where to begin? Which books to read? Of course this can be a subjective topic, but just to get you started here is my list of the top 5 must-read advertising books.

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1. Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy

‘The Father of Advertising’ as he is called, wrote this book in 1983, twenty-one years after he released ‘Confessions of an Advertising Man’. Ogilvy on Advertising is admired by professionals all over the globe.

Ken Roman’s 2009 biography of Ogilvy, describes its reception this way:
“‘The book of David’ as Madison Avenue called it, was judged ‘as fine a primer on advertising as has ever been written.’ John Caples said it was ‘the most exciting and instructive volume about advertising I have ever seen’ and ‘a must for every ambitious advertising man.’ In a peculiar comparison, The London Standard named Ogilvy ‘the Einstein of Advertising.’”(Agency Review).

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2. Truth, Lies, and Advertising by Jon Steel

This book lays out the good and bad side of account planning in the advertising industry. The value of good account planning is extremely high in today’s market, and Jon Steel points out why with specific instances and examples. “If you want to know what Account Planning is, why it exists, how it helps agencies and how it works, then this is the book for you” (Agency Review).

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3. A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young

Bill Bernbach gave a two-page introduction to this book stating, “Young conveys in his little book something more valuable than the most learned and detailed texts on the subject of advertising” (Agency Review). The book is only forty-eight pages and offers some of the best ways to overcome a stump and get the creative juices flowing.

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4. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

In a world where you are surrounded by advertising everywhere we turn, people are becoming harder to reach and more difficult to engage with. In order to succeed in today’s market, brands have to stand out, or be ‘remarkable’ as Seth Godin would say.

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5. Hey Whipple Squeeze This by Luke Sullivan

The author Luke Sullivan has an extensive history in the advertising industry, working at some of the most prominent creative agencies throughout America. He is now the Chairman of the Advertising Department at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

In his book, Hey Whipple Squeeze This, Sullivan covers just about every aspect of advertising, including TV, radio, print, infomercials, etc. The book gives a plethora of information, recommendations and real-world examples of the advertising industry. And of course, the updated version that came out in 2012 covers new outlets, including social media.


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