What Famous Author Honed His Skills as an Ogilvy Copywriter?

2783008If you guessed Salman Rushdie, you’re right. The great novelist started his writing career as a copywriter at the London agency started by the great copywriter David Ogilvy, Joe Bunting posted at Copyblogger.

While his books have captivated the literary world, his advertising credits at Ogilvy & Mather are not too shabby either. Aero is still using his tagline—“Irresistibubble”—for its aerated chocolate bar. Rushdie also came up with “Naughty..but Nice” for Fresh Cream Cakes and a clever line for the Daily Mirror, “Look into the Mirror tomorrow—you’ll like what you see.”

When he wasn’t writing advertisements, Rushdie spent his off hours writing novels. His first book, Grimus, was published during his seven-year stint at Ogilvy & Mather. His second novel, the 1981 award-winning Midnight’s Children, started Rushdie on his path to international fame.

Here’s what Rushdie learned about writing during his copywriting career:

  • Be disciplined. “I write like a job. I sit down in the morning and I do it. And I don’t miss deadlines.”
  • Spend time writing headlines. For his breakthrough novel, Rushdie spent hours typing “Children of Midnight” and “Midnight’s Children” over and over before choosing the latter.
  • Be concise. “One of the great things about advertising is…you have to try to make a very big statement in very few words or very few images and you haven’t much time. All of this is, I feel, very useful,” Rushdie said at the 2008 IAPI Advertising Effectiveness Award ceremony.
  • Rejection is part of writing; use it as motivation. “One must find themselves an editor or, failing that, a group of people who will tell you the truth about your writing, and are not afraid to say, ‘This isn’t good enough.’ … Unless someone can tell you that what you’re writing is no good, then you won’t know how to push it to a point when it can start being good.”

Rushdie credits the habits he formed as an Ogilvy & Mather copywriter to his continued success as a novelist. “I do feel that a lot of the professional craft of writing is something I learnt from those years in advertising, and I will always be grateful for it.”

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