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5 Advertising Books You Should Read

3 min, 4 sec read
12:12 PM | 19 July 2013
by Jim Compton-hall
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Alternatively titled “The best advertising books on my shelf” or “Better things to read than whatever they make you read at uni”.

A bunch of advertising books that are, to put it simply, brilliant. So If you're looking for some reading material to keep you company during the sunny weather, then look no further. 

1. "Hey Whipple, Squeeze This." by Luke Sullivan

Particularly great for copywriters but still good for everyone else. As my ex-tutor recently described this book, it’s actually a joy to read. Perhaps that’s saying more about other advertising books but regardless, “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This.” is a must have. I tried describing it better than the blurb on the back but I failed, so read this instead:

“This is an insider’s guide to coming up with great ideas as well as an unapologetic send-up of all that’s heavy-handed, dim-witted, and ineffectual in the industry”.

2. "Positioning" by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Every planner should read this book. Dave Trott’s words (something to that effect anyway), not mine. In fact, I think that everyone in advertising should read this book. Without a decent grasp on positioning, creative’s couldn’t possibly produce the best work and account men and women couldn’t possibly sell it to clients.

3. "How to do better creative work" by Steve Harrison

Not too long, very easy to read book about how to be better at what you do. Sprinkled with humour and full or loads of great ideas and campaigns that you may not have seen before.

Don’t let the title fool you. This isn’t solely for creatives. The book is laced with strategy throughout making it a great companion for planners too. There’s a chapter titled “How to sell creative work” for you account execs out there and another called “How to get the best from a creative department” for everyone.

4. "E" by Matt Beaumont

That’s right, a novel. What do you want from me? It’s really, really funny, ok?

5. "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely

Ok, so technically this isn’t an advertising book. And technically it isn’t on my shelf (it’s sitting on my old housemate’s shelf as I failed to steal it from her). But I couldn’t not put this in the list. It’s incredibly insightful about the way people behave and for that reason I think it’s a must read for anyone in advertising. Because, you know, we deal with people. Or consumers/audiences/prospects/clients, whatever you want to call them. Dan Ariely is also behind some of the most popular TED talks ever. You might want to check them out for a taster of the book.

Honourable mentions

"Ogilvy on Advertising" by David Ogilvy - A good, all round book to introduce you to the industry (but you should remember that it’s tremendously out of date). Good for people who are beginning their studies into advertising. But most others will have already grown out of it.

"Creativity Now" by Jurgen Wolff - Similar to De Bono’s creative exercises book but I prefer this one. Essentially it’s just a book full of cool exercises you can do to practise being creative. Not necessarily for creatives only as all agency departments should be able to think creatively.

"Changing the World Is the Only Fit Work for a Grown Man" by Steve Harrison - Enjoyable to read and a great introduction to the legendary ad man Howard Gossage, if you don’t already know him. It’s full of incredible stories and anecdotes about the clever and creative things that Gossage did.  

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