5 Books You Need to Read If You’re in Advertising

One of the great things about the ad business is that it doesn’t take a degree in advertising to get into it. You can be an artist, a programmer, a businessperson, or even a classicist. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to learn. These five books are some of the most important for someone in advertising, but don’t stop here. There are tons more out there for you to enjoy.


5) Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy

Ogilvy is, to put it bluntly, very … well, blunt. He writes like he advertises: he doesn’t cut corners. Each chapter is pretty short, so he’s very concise in how he conveys the information to you. What is the book about? Well, what isn’t this book about? It contains chapters on how to run a small business, how to apply for a job, creative advice, and research tip. This is a great jumping off point for anyone interested in great works on advertising.


4) The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells by Robert Bly

Writing is tough. Writing ads is tougher. But Robert Bly takes some of the normal writing advice given by so many, and puts a spin on it that only a copywriter could. Bly discusses headlines, brochures, web copy, and even TV and radio scripts. Some may find Bly’s book to be ‘rudimentary’ or ‘for beginners,’ but you’re never too good to get advice from a pro.


3) Guts: Advertising from the Inside Out by John Lyons

Crazy client stories, crazy creative stories, advertising advice… What more could you want? Lyons takes his own experiences, and those of other creatives, and brings them into a wonderful exposé on the sometimes insane advertising world. He also takes his years of experience and offers advice of his own, like how to get hired at an advertising firm. Check out Guts if you want an inside perspective from some of the greatest minds in advertising.


2) How to Write, Think and Speak More Effectively by Rudolf Flesch

This is the second book on writing on this list. I know, I know. “But why have two books that are going to tell me the exact same thing?” Well, I’ll tell you why: because Rudolf Flesch came up with the ideas that almost everyone who writes about writing writes about. Right. So why get his book, then? It’s from 1960, and someone must have had better ideas than that by now. Well you can pick it up from Amazon for as little as a dollar, first of all. And second of all, it covers everything that any other book on writing ever could. It may not be just for advertisers, but it has a lot of helpful tips for those of us in the business. Buy it. Do the exercises. You’ll be a better writer because of this book.


1) From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor: Front Line Dispatches from the Advertising War by Jerry Della Femina

Pick up this book and you won’t want to put it down. In this account of advertising in its golden age, Jerry Della Femina gives you an inside look on what the ad business was like in the late 1960s. Think it was all fun and games? Think again. This book may have been a big influence for the TV show Mad Men, but Della Femina’s experience will make you think twice about wanting to be Don Draper. If you don’t know much about him, read the book and do some research. How could you not want to know more about the guy who gave us this?

Try getting that out of your head for the rest of the day.

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