The Lion in Winter

In November 1992, Adweek’s Noreen O’Leary spent three fascinating days with David Ogilvy at his chateau in France. At 81, he was just as passionate and opinionated about the ad business as ever. And he eagerly expressed his unwavering philosophy with the conviction that had become his trademark. His famous curiosity was also in full bloom; he asked as many questions of our writer as she put to him. Here, we remember David Ogilvy with photographs and comments from that visit, which turned out to be his last major interview.

“Going public was the greatest mistake I ever made. Why did I do it? Greed. I never had any money. I was paid a miserable salary at the agency. … Suddenly, I saw an enormous sum of money being offered and I couldn’t resist.”

“You have to legislate dogma. If advertising had nothing but creative geniuses like Hal Riney–we don’t and never will–you wouldn’t have to do that. Any agency has to legislate for hundreds of creative people around the world who are dull, second-rate people.”

“Now I walk into client meetings as a living legend. I’d rather go in with a piece of copy or research in my hand. But I’ve become sort of like an exhibit at the zoo. All the others have gone, and I’m the lone survivor.”

“We go through periods where the advertising business goes mad. It starts producing self-conscious, award-winning, obscure, incomprehensible, arty, literary advertising. Then it passes, and the business goes back to producing advertising whose purpose it is to sell. This time we still haven’t gone back.”