“An Insider’s Look into Advertising Careers” – Alison Demos

This past Tuesday, I bundled into the Career Services’ conference room to attend “An Insider’s Look into Advertising Careers” a presentation by Alison Demos ‘98, the a senior partner and director of Ogilvy & Matter Worldwide. I sat down in eager expectation to this enlightening and unexpectedly entertaining presentation, with some highlights I’ll report here!


In her work with brand strategy, Alison has found just how important it is to tap into identity, personhood, and storytelling to tie feelings and values to a brand object. Really, at the end of the day, as she quoted:

‘…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

– Maya Angelou

I should note that Alison’s presentation was simply overflowing with well-selected quotes. For example, a real golden golden one:

“Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else, and thinking something different.”

-Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

A perfect example of this quote, in combination with a respect for the audience’s own intellect, came through Ogilvy’s work on advertising Shreddies, a Canadian cereal that needed a marketing boost.

The marketing for this “new, more dynamic” cereal didn’t revitalize the cereal with a 45 degree turn; they successfully captured consumers via a marketing campaign that winked knowingly to a marketing-scheme-weary world. If you’re interested, you can find a look into the marketing campaign in this guy’s TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5ds7WzVeew#t=18)

When describing her work as an ethnographer, Alison revealed how noticing the details and little discrepancies unlocks a wealth of insight into the mindset of a person, as well as their implicit attitude towards products. My personal favorite example came through their research for that perfect candy, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. In a reel of casual interviews with a range of average people, Alison pointed us to a key segment of footage, featuring one man sitting on his living room couch. As he contemplatively peeled the orange wrapping from a pack of Reese’s, he remarked,

Such a contradiction, which could have been so easily disregarded, captured a facet of the Reese’s experience reflected quietly in many of the other videos. Reese’s is a “me-time candy,” one meant to be enjoyed purposefully, ideally when alone, because the packaging of pairs really makes it too easy to be guilted into sharing your indulgence.

All in all, Alison’s perceptions revealed how human insight and authenticity can be used to more beautifully and effectively power marketing. Though she had to be shuttled off to catch the train right after her talk, her insights and stories of the advertising world left a delicious chocolate feeling of fullness in the room, as well as a longing for more. For, as she quoted in her presentation:

“You cannot bore people into buying your product. You can only interest them into doing so.”

– David Ogilvy


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