Why Words Work

Why Words Work

In 1948, David Ogilvy founded what would become Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, one of the most famous names in advertising. Ogilvy, an Englishman, had worked during WWII in the intelligence service at the British Embassy in Washington. After the war, he became an advertising copywriter. Today, he is referred to as the original “Mad Man” and the Father of Advertising.

Ogilvy created seven commandments for successful advertising. Like Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams,” if you build it, he will come; Ogilvy preached if you repeat it, they will believe.

Some 16 years earlier, in 1934, Hitler is quoted as saying, “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” He was right.

Marketing and Advertising, whether fake or true, sell products or people. For example, “You’re in good hands with Allstate,” “It’s the Real Thing,” “Please Don’t Squeeze the Charmin,” “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” and “When you care enough to send the very best.” You get the idea. Cigarette advertising succeeded, until 1965 when Congress required all cigarette packages sold in the United States to carry the health warning about cigarettes and cancer.

Today, we are experiencing a superior grade of marketing and advertising with repetition, repetition, repetition of catchy phrases and earnest delivery. Like an amazing dinner, presentation is key.

How many times in the past year have you heard:

“Lyin’ Ted;” “Little Marco;” “Low Energy Jeb.”

“Crooked Hillary.” “Crazy Bernie.” “Goofy Elizabeth Warren.”

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

“I will build a great wall. Believe me.”

“Any negative polls are fake news. Believe me.”

“The dishonest media. Boy, are they dishonest. Believe me.”

“Believe me . . .”

“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich. Believe me.”

“My IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it. Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault. Believe me.”

Then we have the litany of No One – as in

“No one reads the bible more than me;

“No one knows more about taxes than me, in the history of the world;

“No one respects women more than me;

“No one has ever been more successful than me; and

“No one is bigger or better at the military than I am. Believe me.”

“It’s all fake news. Believe me.” Convinced yet?

Technically, we only need to hear something repeated three times to remember it. Next time a radio commercial plays, listen to how often the phone number is repeated. A billboard on the highway has six to eight seconds to convince us to buy. By the time you’ve seen and heard a television ad 20 times, you’ve bought the product or swallowed the Kool-Aid, whichever the case may be.

Several in the current White House administration have denied contact with Russia or Russian officials in 2016. One of the tenets in public relations is “deny, deny, deny.” Or, as Mark Twain said, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of The Washington Post, termed the phrase, the non-denial denial, referring to the Watergate Scandal. Then President Richard Nixon and his top White House and campaign officials publicly denied any wrongdoing. Oops.

Accordingly, Michael Flynn, former National Security Adviser denied having contact with Russia. So too, former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort and Carter Page, a former Trump adviser denied meeting with the Russian Ambassador. Oops.

Following Mr. Flynn’s ouster, the President tweeted, “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!” Denial supreme.

Others coming out of the woodwork as having contact in some form with Russia are Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and J.D. Gordon, another national security adviser to the Trump campaign.

Jeff Sessions, former U. S. Senator from Alabama, was named, confirmed and sworn-in as Trump’s Attorney General. He too denied two meetings with the Russian Ambassador in 2016. Truth willed out. He lied. He did have two contacts with Russia during the presidential campaign; dogged by controversy, Jeff recused himself from the Russian ties and investigation probe. We can only hope we see more than a recusal.

The President retorted that Sessions is an “honest man.” He said, Mr. Sessions “could have stated his response more accurately.” Like telling the truth? Then, POTUS accused the Democrats of a “witch hunt.”

Denial paves the road to deflection, which provides a diversion from the main highway.

With investigations escalating over the Trump Team’s Russian connections during the presidential campaign, the master marketing president tweeted a Red Herring: “Just found out Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism.”

This tweet, and more, deflects the focus away from investigations over Russia connections to something else. He was accurate that “nothing found.” No evidence was offered nor is evidence available to back up that claim.

Which reminds me of a 1970 song by Five Man Electrical Band – “Sign, sing, everywhere a sign; Blocking out the scenery; Breaking my mind; Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?”

During the 2016 GOP National Convention in Cleveland, Mr. Trump said, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”

Rewind to 1934 again. Hitler said, “I am responsible for the fate of the German People, thereby I am the supreme judge of the German people.”

Believe me.

Judy Brenna
Marco Island


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One comment

  1. It would be interesting to see what your research would look like and the depth of your comments and quotes, if your focus was on Hillary Clinton and not Pres. Trump.

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