Start a blog or open a Facebook account and, after choosing passwords and a sceen name, you'll be faced with having to upload a photo to represent you online. This is what happened to me in the first weekend of March, 2007 when I simultaneously started this blog, as well as my @badbanana Twitter account. I had no real intention of keeping my Twitter account, so I just reached for a photo that I already had on my desktop.
That photo was of legendardy ad man David Ogilvy. Today is the 100th anniverary of his birth.
Like most aspiring young copywriters in college, I treasured Ogilvy's books. But he represented far more than old-school wisdom in my mind. Here was a larger-than-life ad god. An industrial titan. A creative mind who respected the housewife reading a magazine ad just as much as the factory worker whose job depended upon a successful new product launch. Years later, when I started my own agency, many of his principles drove the way we did our work for clients.
So, just as some people might choose a favorite sport team's logo for an avatar, I chose a picture of David Ogilvy.
When it became obvious that I would keep my Twitter account for a while, I tried to move on from that avatar. Each change, however, caused a huge outcry from followers. There was just something about that face that made my strange and sometimes humorous observations just a tad bit more interesting. The oddest thoughts just seemed a little more normal coming out of that mouth. Or even odder.
The point is, I'm stuck with David. And I've grown to enjoy telling people about the real man behind the avatar. Even if it is sometimes strange for people to say they're not anxious to meet me in person because they don't want to know what I really look like. They prefer the illusion.
David would certainly understand that. While on a tour of a shirt factory once, he famously refused to go into the room to see how the shirts were actually made. He preferred to think they were lovingly hand-made by little old ladies. The truth would only serve to disappoint, he said.
I'm sure Ogilvy wouldn't mind me using his face on Twitter. And I'm positive he'd be fascinated with all these new technologies transforming the way marketing is done today. He was a research man at heart. The ability to record and analyze views and clicks and real-time conversations would have fascinated him to no end. Although I'm also quite sure he'd have a stern warning to the modern-day ad men who think in terms of avatars. These are people, he'd say.
Today, I'm in Cannes, reporting from and commenting on the largest advertising festival in the world on behalf of Cannes Centrale. To ad professionals, this is the center of the universe. And, quite frankly, I've spent twenty years working on the outer reaches of this universe. I never imagined I'd be here.
So it's only fitting that I'll be right here, on this day. A day when a red carpet will be rolled out along the Promenade de la Croisette in honor of David Ogilvy's birth 100 years ago.
Thank you, Mr. Ogilvy. I wouldn't be here without you.