Terry O’Reilly – The Age of Persuasion





Award in Edgewise

1. What does Marshall McLuhan mean by calling radio a “hot medium”?

2. What economic importance do awards have?

3. What did Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prize, invent?

4. Who created the world’s shortest radio ad?

5. Who gives the award agencies their power?

6. What does O’Reilly see as the virtues of ad awards?

7. What are some of the reasons that “award-winning ads are hot commodities”?

8. What does Terry O’Reilly see as “unique” about ad competitions? How are ad awards distinguished in this regard from other award bodies, such as the Oscars?

9. Explain what O’Reilly means when he says that the advertising industry “lives in a culture of ‘No’”. How do ad awards affect this situation?

10. What, in Terry O’Reilly’s view, makes the ad about “bull’s testicles” effective and worthy of awards?

11. Why does O’Reilly say that awards are a poor way to measure greatness?


Reviving the Brand

1. What is retro-branding?

2. What problem did Juicy Fruit gum have in reviving its brand? How did they “re-brand” themselves?

3. What is the difference between a product and a brand?

4. What is “comparison advertising”?

5. Why is calling something “new” a common strategy among advertisers?

6. Explain the law of the advertising jungle that “No brand can survive long by standing still.”

7. How did Kellogg’s Special K remarket or re-brand itself effectively?

8. Explain the role of self-deprecation in re-branding.

9. From what problem did Cadillac suffer? How did Cadillac attempt to overcome this difficulty?

10. What is “brand mortality” and why is it a problem for advertisers?


Frontiers and Boundaries

1. What is a bellwether? Explain the comparison that Terry O’Reilly makes between advertising and a bellwether.

2. Explain the importance of understanding “prevailing tastes and tolerances” for effective advertising.

3. Give an example of a kind of advertising message that would not have been accepted fifty years ago. By contrast, give an example of a kind of advertising message that was accepted fifty years ago, but would not be accepted today.

4. What does Terry O’Reilly mean by “Yesterday’s joys are today’s poisons”?

5. Explain how advertising reflects current societal attitudes about women and sexuality.

6. What do “watchdog groups” do? Why must advertisers be careful?

7. Explain the meaning of the statement: “Social frontiers and boundaries aren’t written; they’re assumed. And we only tend to notice them when they’re broken.”

8. Explain Terry O’Reilly’s statements that “Advertising is a reflection of society,” but also that “Advertising isn’t allowed to reflect society too accurately.”

9. Explain what is meant by the phrase “Advertising reflects society as it wants to see itself.”

10. Clarify why Terry O’Reilly suggests, “The fault lies not in our ads, but in ourselves.”


Guerrillas in our Midst

1. What is “guerrilla marketing”?

2. What did the Spanish term “guerrilla” mean at its origins?

3. What is the key to guerrilla marketing?

4. Why is guerrilla marketing often preferable to more traditional forms of advertising?

5. What does Terry O’Reilly claim are the early forerunners of today’s guerrilla marketing tactics?

6. How do guerrilla marketing stunts such as dog-vertising and bra-vertising benefit “the little guy” against the advertising giants?

7. Explain Jay Conrad Levinson’s statement: “It’s about achieving conventional goals such as profits and joy with unconventional methods such as investing energy instead of money.”

8. How was guerrilla marketing used to good effect in New Mexico to send anti drinking and driving messages?

9. What is “ad clutter”? Why does guerrilla marketing sometimes raise public concern about “ad clutter”?

10. What is R.O.I.? Why is it important to advertisers?

11. Why does Terry O’Reilly disagree with the statement by some that “any publicity is good publicity”?

12. Explain the allure of the YouTube “Bridezilla” viral messaging/guerrilla ad. Why was it so effective?

13. “Commercials as you know them aren’t dead, but they are evolving.” What does Terry O’Reilly mean by this claim?

14. What is the downside of guerrilla advertising, according to Terry O’Reilly?


By Any Other Name

1. What does the paper grading experiment suggest about names? How does this lesson work in advertising?

2. Why did some companies with long names reduce them to acronyms? Why might this be effective advertising or branding?

3. What particular advertising strategy does Digital Domain offer its clients who have established solid brand names? What can be the pitfall of this strategy?

4. What is the meaning of the term “Kleenex-itus”?

5. Explain why the branding of Häagen-Dazs was so effective.

6. How does the internet create new problems for the development of memorable brand names?

7. Explain how Leif Erikson’s name for Greenland is an early form of brand name advertising.



CBC Podcasts of Terry O’Reilly’s Age of Persuasion





Do This Or Die

1. What is a manifesto?

2. Read through Bob Levinson’s “Do this or die” print ad (reproduced below). What is its primary insight?



Is this ad some kind of trick?

No. But it could have been. And at exactly that point rests a do or die decision for American business. We in advertising, together with our clients, have all the power and skill to trick people. Or so we think. But we're wrong. We can't fool any of the people any of the time. There is indeed a twelve-year-old mentality in this country; every six-year-old has one. We are a nation of smart people. And most smart people ignore most advertising because most advertising ignores smart people. Instead we talk to each other. We debate endlessly about the medium and the message. Nonsense. In advertising, the message itself is the message. A blank page and a blank television screen are one and the same. And above all, the messages we put on those pages and on those television screens must be the truth. For if we play tricks with the truth, we die.

Now. The other side of the coin. Telling the truth about a product demands a product that's worth telling the truth about. Sadly, so many products aren't. So many products don't do anything better. Or anything different. So many don't work quite right. Or don't last. Or simply don't matter. If we also play this trick, we also die. Because advertising only helps a bad product fail faster. No donkey chases the carrot forever. He catches on. And quits. That's the lesson to remember. Unless we do, we die. Unless we change, the tidal wave of consumer indifference will wallop into the mountain of advertising and manufacturing drivel. That day we die. We'll die in our marketplace. On our shelves. In our gleaming packages of empty promises. Not with a bang. Not with a whimper. But by our own skilled hands.


3. Explain David Ogilvie’s axiom of advertising that, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she’s your wife.”

4. Why does Terry O’Reilly contend that “good advertising must be at least as smart as the consumer it reaches”?

5. Explain what Terry O’Reilly means by calling “price loyalty” an oxymoron, and a weak method of advertising that undermines itself.

6. What is clever about the Volvo ad?

7. Why is the development of a “core value” in a brand important? What makes it difficult, such that advertisers often shy away from it?

8. What is a focus group? Why is Terry O’Reilly critical of focus groups in advertising?

9. Explain what Terry O’Reilly means by saying that “in the age of persuasion, comfort is a dangerous narcotic”?


The Wall of Cynicism

1. With what purpose in mind does Terry O’Reilly discuss the example of Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds radio hoax?

2. What is Ronald Knox’s claim to fame? (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/the_riot_that_never_was.shtml)

3. What does Terry O’Reilly mean when he says: “Slowly our society graduated from scepticism to cynicism”?

4. What is suggested by calling someone a “snake oil” salesman? Explain the origins of the term “snake oil” in advertising.

5. What is “subliminal advertising”? What were its claims? What is the real truth about it?

6. Explain the significance of the Beatles’ “Sexy Sadie” to Terry O’Reilly’s thesis concerning cynicism.

7. What is the lesson behind the Campbell’s soup advertising debacle?

8. Next to “ad clutter,” what is the other greatest problem or challenge for creating an effective advertising message?


The YouTube Revolution

1. How did YouTube revolutionize marketing, according to Terry O’Reilly?

2. How has YouTube changed the way that audiences relate to current events or watch television?

3. Explain what lesson NBC’s decision to partner strategically with YouTube over the “video sharing” of “Lazy Sunday” suggests, according to Terry O’Reilly.

4. Why is “dialogue” with the consumer important for the most effective advertising?

5. What new approach did Chevrolet take in advertising the Tahoe to facilitate such “dialogue”? What were its unintended consequences?

6. What does Terry O’Reilly mean when he says that YouTube has introduced the “adversarial system” to advertising?

7. What advertising lesson does Ogilvy Toronto’s short video for Dove called “Evolution” communicate, according to Terry O’Reilly?

8. What new risks (as well as pay-offs) are there for advertisers in consumer parodies of their products that appear on YouTube?


Breaking the Contract

1. What was the Highway Beautifications Act”?

2. Why is it suggested, “Billboards violate a contract”? What is the substance of this contract?

3. Who was Albert Lasker? What is his great achievement in advertising?

4. How did “brand sponsors” build on Lasker’s innovation in advertising?

5. What makes billboards an “interesting” and “unique” form of advertising?

6. How does telemarketing violate Lasker’s contract?

7. Explain how the cinema advertising example by CanTel AT&T masterfully upholds the contract, in Terry O’Reilly’s opinion.

8. How have new technologies that enable viewers to skip ads affected the way that advertisers go about their job?

9. What does great ad creative do, according to Terry O’Reilly?


A Sense of Persuasion

1. What is “synesthesia”? What use does it have in advertising?

2. Explain the “hook and reveal” structure in advertising.

3. What innovations did Singapore Airlines introduce into its own in-flight ad branding?

4. What is the “sixth sense” of brand advertising?

5. Explain what is meant by saying that “a brand is an experience.”

6. What are “retail fragrances,” and why are they used by retailers?

7. What marketing technique has Rolls Royce adopted since modernizing its vehicle designs? Why?

8. Mercedez Benz developed an entire department of marketing to oversee what particular element of their vehicle? Why?

9. What does Coca-Cola fail to understand about its own branding, according to Terry O’Reilly?

10. Explain how sensory branding using all five (and even six) senses is the most effective.


Six Remarkable Brands

1. What does Canada do very poorly, according to Terry O’Reilly? What does this mean?

2. Why does Terry O’Reilly call the Beatles a “remarkable brand”?

3. What must a successful brand continually do if it is to remain relevant, according to Terry O’Reilly?

4. Why does Terry O’Reilly laud the Coca-Cola polar bear as a “remarkable brand”?

5. What makes Oprah Winfrey’s branding so successful?

6. Why does the Las Vegas brand distinguish itself for Terry O’Reilly?

7. What three important things happened that allowed Vegas to arise in its current brand format?

8. What three things does the Vegas brand represent?

9. What is one of the most difficult feats for a brand to achieve, according to Terry O’Reilly?

10. What does Terry O’Reilly mean when he says that Lego is “universal”?

11. How does Lego renew itself as a brand across the generations?

12. Of what two components is Mohammed Ali’s brand composed?

13. What “fascinates” about Ali’s brand, according to Terry O’Reilly?

14. Explain Terry O’Reilly’s claim that “remarkable brands give us a fascinating insight into ourselves.”


Persuasion in the Niches

1. What lesson about advertising does the example of background actors and central casting teach?

2. What is the difference between lead brands, secondary brands, and niche brands?

3. Why is niche marketing becoming so popular while mainstream “one-size-fits-all” brands are becoming scarce?

4. What relation do specialty channels have to the increase in niche advertising?

5. What was TV marketing like before the advent of speciality channels and niche marketing?

6. Why do car companies find niche marketing particularly effective?

7. What does the term “brand extension” mean?

8. How does niche marketing divide up consumers themselves into unique groups?