How Ogilvy Wrote The Greatest Headline Of All Time

November 5, 2021
Share this post

The greatest headline of all time...

It's a bold claim, but one that has withstood the test of time.

There have been many great ads, ones like:

  • Nike: Just Do It.
  • Coke: Share a Coke
  • Anheuser-Busch: WhasssssssssUPPPP!
  • Wendy's: Where's the Beef!

All good ones.

But none come close to the elegance and impact of one ad (and its headline) in one of the most famous ads of all time.

This is primarily because the greatest ad man of all time considered it his very best headline of all time.

Here it is:

(Image via

The headline itself was probably more famous than him and has since outlived him in many ways.

"At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock."

That ad was what we would consider a unicorn.

It was an ad that scaled and grew Rolls Royce in the United States and the world, thanks to David Ogilvy's efforts.

So how did he actually do it? That's what we're gonna be finding out here today. So you can do the same thing that he did back in 1958-- except you’re doing it in 2021 and beyond to scale and grow your business through advertising.

What’s in a unicorn??

A unicorn is something unusual, rare, or unique.

It was unique, but how did Ogilvy do it over and over again, and how do you actually create unicorns?

More importantly, is how do you actually create unicorns at scale?

Do Your Research

Research is the one thing that actually starts the path to becoming a unicorn. If you're an advertising executive, or you use advertising at all in scaling and growing your business, a great ad can do wonders for your company just like Ogilvy did with Rolls Royce.

The only thing most don’t realize? Is this ad didn’t happen by chance or luck. The ad started with weeks of research. Ogilvy researched Rolls Royce for an entire month before he came up with the unicorn ad we mentioned earlier.

So, if you look back to 1958, let's take a moment back in time here. Americans had been living in a very prosperous post-war era, and the car had emerged as the ultimate status symbol.

This is a really, really crowded, and what Eugene Schwartz would say is a “mature market”.

They've seen it all, they've heard it all, and there's a ton of great luxury cars, all vying for the American consumer's attention.

So the folks at Rolls Royce approach Ogilvy for a new marketing campaign, and what could Ogilvy possibly do to persuade buyers towards the Rolls Royce, versus all the other options, I mean, a luxury car is a luxury car, right?

And all luxury cars claim to be quick, comfortable and classy, and get you from here to there.

But Ogilvy knew, in order to really break through in this market, he had to do something different. So he recognized that there were similarities among all the luxury car offerings, because they all had one remarkable trait.

They all had a benefit that spoke exactly to the audience.

But what benefit would really speak to the upper class?

What would they crave the most?

And he found out after about three weeks, that the one thing that kept coming back in his research is that the life that the rich and the affluent want to lead all revolves around an escape from the impoverished world.

It's something that they deeply, deeply desire. Or in other words, they longed for peace, quiet, and relaxation.

So in his three weeks' research, he randomly came upon a quote in a magazine called The Motor. And he had his headline. He found that at 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock.

He found that by doing his research, uncovering it in an article, as he did his research in The Motor magazine, he realized just then that he had struck advertising gold.

And the rich and famous finally had an option to escape the average everyday lower-class world while driving from their mansion to their beach home.

Finally, he had a way to reach this audience and cut through all the clutter in this really, really mature market. And in the process, he became the most famous advertising icon on the planet. And he still is to this day.

Now, the point is, is that he went on to write some of the most famous and the most successful ads of all time. He was absolutely no one-hit-wonder. And it all came back to research, just doing the dirty work of research.

But, is it all about research, especially now in 2021?

Well, in most cases, this is kinda what people would do. They would just throw stuff against the wall and not be able to methodically test anything. This is what we call “The Spaghetti Method”.

This is (unfortunately) what most agencies do. This is what most advertisers, in general, do when they come up with new concepts.

But Ogilvy realized that he needed a system. If you really dig deeper into his methodologies, you realize that he had a process. And this research was just one component of the whole thing.

That’s what one of our greatest goals is, as advertisers- to not just get the one-hit-wonder, but to create an ad that can be perpetually used over and over again, and has millions and millions of spend, that is hitting your KPI as a business. The Unicorn Ad.

And at Tier 11, we wanted to come up with a process very similar to how Ogilvy did most of his research, and how he created most of his greatest ads. We’ve now perfected that system and refer to it as The Creative Lab™.

The premise of the Creative Lab™ is to build a creative process, that uses deep research to identify avatars and messaging that resonates and uses metrics to find signals in winning campaigns and creatives, all of which lead to iterative creative making.

And it's all a part of another process we refer to as Customer Acquisition Amplification™ (or CaAMP™).

In fact, this whole supersystem of how we manage traffic starts at the top with the Creative Lab™.

The Creative Lab™ permeates every part of all of our advertising and marketing campaigns, because it's so important.

Not only does it power our advertising, but it powers everything else, including after the click.

So what steps can YOU take to execute the Creative Lab™?

*If you don't get all seven steps all perfectly aligned here, it's okay, this is just the step-by-step process that we use.

Step One begins with that deep-dive research.

This first step is arguably the most important step, which is the deep-dive research phase. This is why the research and analysis framework section is so involved, there are a lot of aspects and dimensions to it.

You can complete your research, from product user reviews, competitor reviews, surveys, customer reviews, founder interviews, you might even look at call recordings from call centers if it’s an avenue that is available to you.

After that initial research, you’ll want to go through the product itself, just like what Ogilvy did, go through the product manuals, go through what's written about it in the media. As well as look at former ads, winners and losers, analyze the sales page.

Then you’ll throw that all through what we refer to as a “messaging lens”, which is, jobs to be done, sentiment analysis, and buyer criteria.

Really, this is what the customer wants, what stage the market is in, how mature the market might be, as well as the process of determining what needs to happen for the prospect to buy. So that's our messaging lens. That's all included in step one.

Step Two involves a messaging component, where, out of that research, we start to formulate messaging.

Now, step two is messaging. So once you do the research, you now have the ability to be able to formulate some of your messaging.
All of your messaging, which ultimately creates your ads, comes from that initial research and in turn, ultimately turns out into a creative brief.

This brings us to Step Three, Crafting Creative Briefs.

Step Three is all about crafting a handful of rough creative briefs for your creative team. At this point, these are maybe just generalized ideas of ads. That normally includes ad copy, some images, maybe even some video.

After creating the rough creative briefs, our creative team will turn them into active creative briefs. Some of that core sales messaging from Step Two might turn into level one or cold traffic ads, all the way to some of the retargeting ads.

Step Four is to send those rough creatives off to the production team.

The production team will create the actual ad itself from all that research in the creative brief and all the ideas that we generated, through steps one through three.

We call this step Creative Execution.

Step Five is to turn it loose into the wild.

To do this we end up either setting it up in one of our testing campaigns (referred to in Tier 11 as sandbox campaigns), or we might use Dynamic Creative. This step is purely so we can start seeing signals that show us whether or not an ad is resonating with the market or not.

Step Six is to analyze the data through Data Analysis.

This is where we analyze all the data that came out of that sandbox campaign. And maybe it might be, certain ads work well, others don't, maybe it's all based upon CPA, ROAS, maybe engagement.

Maybe we determine our criteria based upon click-through rates or cost per click, so we use different metrics for success, might not always be conversions in order to get signals that show us, yes, this ad, this type of messaging is working, and maybe the others are not.

After that, we move to Step Seven to improve and iterate on the initial ads.  

We do this through a process called Kaizen Creative™.

Kaizen, which is never-ending improvement, Kaizen Creative™, with a K, and then we come out at the other end with a unicorn ad, which is what we were able to produce, and continue to be able to produce here in 2021, for many, if not all of our customers.

We take the ones that work best, throw them back into the whole process and iterate on them, it might be a video ad, or maybe it’s the first three to six seconds that is getting lots of engagement. We'll use that and then we'll maybe test the minute or two that comes after those first three to six seconds.

Kaizen Creative™ involves a constant iterative process of creating ads and making sure that you're constantly improving, as well as avoiding banner blindness and things that are going to eventually happen to your ads.

Once we have Kaizen Creative™, we take the best combinations and the elements of each ad, and then we make it better, through a continual loop of iterations.

And that's our second to last phase in Kaizen Creative™.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a unicorn.

If you'd like to learn more about us and how we can create unicorn ads in your accounts using the Creative Lab™, click the Work With Us button below, and we'd happy to talk to you to see how we might be able to help you and your business scale up in the coming year.

Share this post

Latest Blog Posts