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Friday, 21 May 2010

Gary Halbert, David Ogilvy - and your humble servant: a tale of lost friendship

25 years ago, just after I sold my business to O & M, I got a note from David Ogilvy asking me what I thought of a newsletter he had just read.

It was by a man I had never heard of called Gary Halbert - though I had seen some of his work. I said I thought it was excellent; in fact it was so excellent I used an example in it for a book I was writing called "How to write a salesletter that sells.

I am not too good at blowing my own trumpet, but someone I respect told me he thought it is better than The Robert Collier Letter book - which is THE best on the subject. So it must be bloody good.

But that is not the point here.

For one reason or another although Gary wrote about me a couple of times we never connected until he wrote to me and I replied a couple of years ago. But before we could really got to know each other, he died,far too young.

Selfishly I have always deeply regretted this. Gary was a true original, just as funny and perceptive in an utterly different way as another fine writer, Bill Jayme, who launched me on my speaking career, and did become a good friend.

Today the Halbert tradition continues in The Gary Halbert Letter, which I wrote a piece for a while ago. Ever since I have been casting around for something else that would be appropriate, and yesterday I found it lurking in my files in the form of a piece based, of all things, on an article in an Australian aviation magazine about air safety.

I sent it off yesterday to Kevin Halbert saying I thought it would have made his old man laugh - and Kevin wrote back saying he was running it immediately, which he has. I am a rather sentimental old fool, and quite like the idea of old Gary roaring his head off at it.

It's very short, but here's one bit:

"Put no faith in easy answers – which reminds me of all the ballyhoo I have heard over the years about CRM, Social Networks, rebranding and other miracle solutions".

Is there any lesson in all this? There may be. If and when you read the piece, you may wonder how the hell I managed to link air safety rules with marketing.

Most marketing pieces are dull and samey because they only talk about marketing, which, forgetting the money, is frankly not the world's most rivetting subject.

If you want to write stuff that fixes itself in the mind and is remembered, you need something relevant - but unexpected. That means you must stock your mind with knowledge of all kinds.

On the matter of relevant surprise, you might find a video I did a while back interesting. It's not very slick but yesterday a very good writer told me he couldn't stop watching it.

To see that article go to

To see the video, go to

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