Ogilvy’s Killer Poets

David Ogilvy said,

Most good copywriters fall into two categories. Poets. And killers. Poets see an ad as an end. Killers as a means to an end. If you are both a killer and a poet, you get rich.

Ogilvy was writing about people in the advertising business, but his advice extends much farther.

In any line of work, poets draw the work out of themselves. Killers take their work out of the world around them. A poet will do a job on pure internal motivation, while a killer can see a job’s completion solely by external criteria. It’s no wonder the two combined can be so powerful.

It scales to teams and organizations too. A group of poets will make for fantastically interesting conversations, but leave you praying for a hit. A group of killers will execute like a mercenary army, but leave you for the next job if you don’t provide a good enough option. Like all things, it requires a balance.

Ogilvy praises the killer poets for a reason. Whether at the personal level or the organizational, our goal is to balance internal drive with external execution. Embrace it altogether. And then get it all, together.

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