The best advertising books

11 authors have picked their favorite books about advertising and why they recommend each book.

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Ogilvy on Advertising

By David Ogilvy,

Book cover of Ogilvy on Advertising

What’s it like to climb inside the mind of one of advertising’s most iconic legends? Reading this book is probably the closest thing to it. You’re sure to come out with a dramatically changed view on how the industry works, and doesn’t. I’ve quoted him often in Cashvertising because his no-bull approach to advertising resonates strongly with everything I’ve been teaching for nearly four decades. Make his words your own and then--when you speak to others about advertising--you’ll be speaking with the voice of unquestionable authority.

Ogilvy on Advertising

By David Ogilvy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ogilvy on Advertising as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

David Ogilvy is well known and respected as the most successful adman of all time. His bestselling book, Ogilvy on Advertising, gives valuable advice to young hopefuls and veterans of the industry wanting to improve their success rate.


Who am I?

Drew Eric Whitman is known internationally as a dynamic consultant and trainer who smashes old advertising myths like a china-shop bull. Teaching the psychology behind the response for nearly four decades, he worked for the direct-marketing division of the largest ad agency in Philadelphia, was a senior copywriter for the country's leading direct-to-the-consumer insurance company, and was the associate copy chief for catalog giant Day-TimersHis work has been used by companies ranging from small retail shops to giant, multi-million dollar corporations. A popular keynote speaker at international affiliate marketing conferences, Drew’s intensive CA$HVERTISING Clinic teaches business people how to use consumer psychology to boost the effectiveness of their ads, brochures, sales letters, Websites, and more.


I wrote...

Ca$hvertising: How to Use More Than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone

By Drew Eric Whitman,

Book cover of Ca$hvertising: How to Use More Than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone

What is my book about?

Translated into 9 languages worldwide, CA$HVERTISING is the best-selling and highest-rated copywriting-psychology book on Amazon today. It teaches you the tips, tricks, and psychological strategies that New York’s top-gun copywriters and designers use to persuade people to buy like crazy. Fast-moving, fun-reading, and practical, CA$HVERTISING was written to save business owners years of costly trial-and-error experimentation. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a corporate giant... an online entrepreneur... or a mom & pop corner pizza shop. That’s because these techniques are based on human psychology. They work no matter where you’re located… no matter what kind of product or service you sell… and no matter where you advertise.

Read it, and you'll know more about how to create effective ads than 99% of your competition. (And that's not just another advertising claim. It's what hundreds of Amazon reviewers have reported after reading CA$HVERTISING.)

Book cover of Tested Advertising Methods

If you want to run ads that work, you need to learn what makes them work. This book tells you. John Caples is widely regarded to be one of history’s most iconic advertising copywriters. The man knew how to influence people to buy. This classic book gets down to the very foundation of advertising effectiveness and is loaded with examples and success "recipes" that you can immediately apply to your own ads--no matter what you sell. 100% practical, too. Look for the 4th edition or earlier for a book that's “totally Caples” without dilution by editors to "modernize" (er, weaken!) it. Miss this, and you’re missing the Queen Mary

Tested Advertising Methods

By John Caples,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tested Advertising Methods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The fifth edition of this work on how to create successful advertising features new coverage on small businesses with limited revenues, non-profit advertising, as well as techniques of headlines, illustrations and layouts. There is also new information useful to smaller businesses.

Who am I?

Drew Eric Whitman is known internationally as a dynamic consultant and trainer who smashes old advertising myths like a china-shop bull. Teaching the psychology behind the response for nearly four decades, he worked for the direct-marketing division of the largest ad agency in Philadelphia, was a senior copywriter for the country's leading direct-to-the-consumer insurance company, and was the associate copy chief for catalog giant Day-TimersHis work has been used by companies ranging from small retail shops to giant, multi-million dollar corporations. A popular keynote speaker at international affiliate marketing conferences, Drew’s intensive CA$HVERTISING Clinic teaches business people how to use consumer psychology to boost the effectiveness of their ads, brochures, sales letters, Websites, and more.


I wrote...

Ca$hvertising: How to Use More Than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone

By Drew Eric Whitman,

Book cover of Ca$hvertising: How to Use More Than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone

What is my book about?

Translated into 9 languages worldwide, CA$HVERTISING is the best-selling and highest-rated copywriting-psychology book on Amazon today. It teaches you the tips, tricks, and psychological strategies that New York’s top-gun copywriters and designers use to persuade people to buy like crazy. Fast-moving, fun-reading, and practical, CA$HVERTISING was written to save business owners years of costly trial-and-error experimentation. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a corporate giant... an online entrepreneur... or a mom & pop corner pizza shop. That’s because these techniques are based on human psychology. They work no matter where you’re located… no matter what kind of product or service you sell… and no matter where you advertise.

Read it, and you'll know more about how to create effective ads than 99% of your competition. (And that's not just another advertising claim. It's what hundreds of Amazon reviewers have reported after reading CA$HVERTISING.)

Book cover of My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising

Here’s a classic by the man who started it all. Claude Hopkins is regarded as one of the greatest copywriters of all time. He pioneered the “Reason-Why” style of copywriting (telling people why to buy your product). It’s filled with priceless stories, humor, and practical lessons you can apply to your ads immediately. Get this classic if you're truly serious about learning to create effective ads! While your competitors are floundering around scratching their heads because their ads aren’t working, you’ll know exactly what to do to influence people to buy NOW!

My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising

By Claude Hopkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gain a lifetime of experience from the inventor of test marketing and coupon sampling -- Claude C. Hopkins. Here, you'll get two landmark works in one, and discover his fixed principles and basic fundamentals that still prevail today.

Who am I?

Drew Eric Whitman is known internationally as a dynamic consultant and trainer who smashes old advertising myths like a china-shop bull. Teaching the psychology behind the response for nearly four decades, he worked for the direct-marketing division of the largest ad agency in Philadelphia, was a senior copywriter for the country's leading direct-to-the-consumer insurance company, and was the associate copy chief for catalog giant Day-TimersHis work has been used by companies ranging from small retail shops to giant, multi-million dollar corporations. A popular keynote speaker at international affiliate marketing conferences, Drew’s intensive CA$HVERTISING Clinic teaches business people how to use consumer psychology to boost the effectiveness of their ads, brochures, sales letters, Websites, and more.


I wrote...

Ca$hvertising: How to Use More Than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone

By Drew Eric Whitman,

Book cover of Ca$hvertising: How to Use More Than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone

What is my book about?

Translated into 9 languages worldwide, CA$HVERTISING is the best-selling and highest-rated copywriting-psychology book on Amazon today. It teaches you the tips, tricks, and psychological strategies that New York’s top-gun copywriters and designers use to persuade people to buy like crazy. Fast-moving, fun-reading, and practical, CA$HVERTISING was written to save business owners years of costly trial-and-error experimentation. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a corporate giant... an online entrepreneur... or a mom & pop corner pizza shop. That’s because these techniques are based on human psychology. They work no matter where you’re located… no matter what kind of product or service you sell… and no matter where you advertise.

Read it, and you'll know more about how to create effective ads than 99% of your competition. (And that's not just another advertising claim. It's what hundreds of Amazon reviewers have reported after reading CA$HVERTISING.)

Obvious Adams

By Robert R. Updegraff,

Book cover of Obvious Adams: The Story of a Successful Businessman

Obvious Adams is a gem of a “book.” It is 58 pages long, and was originally published as a short story in the Saturday Evening Post magazine in 1916. Adams becomes an advertising superstar because he does one hard thing: he thinks. By thinking, he discovers obvious solutions to knotty problems. Did you ever here someone say, “I wish I thought of that?” The answer is simple: you didn’t study, analyze, think, hard enough. When my mother read my first book, “How to Become CEO,” she said, “Jeffrey, much of this is obvious.” “Correct Mom, but nobody does it.”

Obvious Adams

By Robert R. Updegraff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Obvious Adams as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

By 18 I had read all the books I chose for this essay. During high school, I read biographies of John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Jefferson, Geronimo, Anne Bonny, J. Pierpont Morgan, Winston Churchill, Sophocles, and more. In addition to panoramic, sweeping, epic fiction—Harold Robbins, Tai-Pan, Lawrence of Arabia, Faulkner, Doctor Zhivago (read in Russian and English)—I studied and reread self-help, “how-to” books on everything: writing, cooking, fishing, whatever. I read Ted Williams’ book on hitting a baseball, but, alas, it didn’t help.


I wrote...

How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients

By Jeffrey J. Fox,

Book cover of How to Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients

What is my book about?

Rainmakers are those salespeople that bring in the revenue that sustains an enterprise. Rainmakers generate the money that pays for all employees’ mortgages, car loans, tuitions, braces. This is true for companies, colleges, hospitals, churches, associations. Only 10% of all salespeople are rainmakers (and many of them own small businesses.) But 70% of all salespeople can materially and significantly increase their income. How to Become a Rainmaker is a success blueprint for the ambitious. It was selected as one of "The 100 Best Business Books Ever Written.”

Book cover of Is There Any Hope For Advertising?

Howard Gossage was not your typical ad man. He was cut from a different cloth. His love/hate relationship with the profession led to some innovative ad campaigns. He once ran an ad that ended mid-sentence (people were dying to know what happened next). He advertised Finna Gas by offering free balloons - filled with PINK air. He was part troll, part genius. And his style and flair are things I try to emulate with my own work.

You’ll eventually get to a point in your copy career where you feel jaded. Where you’re tired of selling your soul one sentence at a time. When you reach that point, this book will bring you back to life. That’s what it did for me.

Is There Any Hope For Advertising?

By Howard Gossage,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Is There Any Hope For Advertising? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I started my adult life as a bouncer and a school teacher. A few years later, I was running one of the most well-known email marketing agencies in the industry. The reason this happened is because I dedicated my life to becoming a master copywriter. Learning how to write copy was the key that unlocked a level of freedom I didn’t know existed, both personal and financial. It’s also allowed me to write two bestselling books on email marketing, work with 250+ brands, and coach 2,200+ students around the world. I hope this list helps you take your writing skills up a notch.


I wrote...

Make it Rain: The Secret to Generating Massive Paydays from Your Email List

By Chris Orzechowski,

Book cover of Make it Rain: The Secret to Generating Massive Paydays from Your Email List

What is my book about?

People who master copywriting have the rare ability to turn words into money. If you do business on the internet, this is one skill you need to have in your toolbox. I wrote this book to teach people the basics of copywriting, specifically when it comes to short-form advertising mediums like email. After you read this book, every piece of copy you write will convert better. Your emails, social posts, and landing pages will light people up. Your sales will skyrocket. And you’ll finally be getting the attention, fame, and notoriety your brand deserves.

Ready to take your writing chops to the next level fast? Click the link and make it rain!

Book cover of Changing the World Is the Only Fit Work for a Grown Man

Howard Luck Gossage was an advertising innovator—a genius, really—whose ideas leapt far ahead of traditional advertising. Working in San Francisco during the Mad Men era, he created unusual campaigns that got people involved, inviting them to reply, assist, and even create the ads themselves; in short, he devised interactive advertising before there was such a thing. His iconoclastic, liberating ideas influenced everyone. As Jeff Goodby put it, “When Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein was opened in 1983, we ran an ad with Howard’s picture and the headline: 'An advertising agency founded by a man who’s been dead for 14 years.' Gossage was the plastic guy on our dashboard and we were out there hitting the gas in his honor.” When you read about how he worked, how he thought, and what he created, you’ll press the pedal to the metal yourself.

Changing the World Is the Only Fit Work for a Grown Man

By Steve Harrison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Changing the World Is the Only Fit Work for a Grown Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I taught writing and copywriting at Columbus College of Art & Design in Ohio for thirty-seven years (retiring as an ancient-but-somehow-still-living fossil in 2014). I taught all our majors, but most of my copywriting students were advertising and design majors. During those decades I wrote nonfiction for newspapers and magazines and copy as a freelancer for ad agencies and design studios. My copywriting book emerged from my experiences in and out of the classroom. I hope I’ve given good advice on advertising: how to think about it and how to write it. But you’ll be the judge.


I wrote...

Advertising: Concept and Copy

By George Felton,

Book cover of Advertising: Concept and Copy

What is my book about?

I intend Advertising: Concept and Copy to deliver on its title. Great ad ideas arrive, not by magic, but only when strategic thinking combines with unusual creative expression: when concept meets copy. I cover the process, from developing a smart strategy by understanding product, consumer, and marketplace, to using imagery and language to execute that idea with panache and surprise. My book is practical (how to make great ads), but I support my advice with theory and documentation from the field, as well as with a sequence of how-to-be-creative techniques (“The Toolbox”). I’ve also stuffed the book with terrific classic and contemporary ads. Advertising: Concept and Copy is hands-on, teaching people, I hope, how to think creatively about advertising ideas.

It Chooses You

By Miranda July,

Book cover of It Chooses You

Miranda July was struggling to finish her new movie script and, instead, interviewed a bunch of people she found through the Pennysaver. This book is the product of that procrastination, and I don't think I've ever related to anything more. It helped me to see the value of procrastination in general, and to realise I actually need to procrastinate. It's how I think and, counterintuitively, it's how I get things done. So these days, if I feel that need to procrastinate, I don't beat myself up about it, I do it. I'm much more productive as a result. I’m also much better at realising the difference between needed procrastination and laziness.

It Chooses You

By Miranda July,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It Chooses You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the summer of 2009, Miranda July was struggling to finish writing the screenplay for her much-anticipated second film. During her increasingly long lunch breaks, she began to obsessively read the PennySaver, the iconic clas sifieds booklet that reached everywhere and seemed to come from nowhere. Who was the person selling the "Large leather Jacket, $10"? It seemed important to find out - or at least it was a great distraction from the screenplay.

Accompanied by photographer Brigitte Sire, July crisscrossed Los Angeles to meet a random selection of PennySaver sellers, glimpsing thirteen surprisingly moving and profoundly specific realities, along…


Who am I?

I'm a writer from a small town in England that nobody has heard of, who now lives in Berlin. I have written books about depression, insomnia, creativity, and travel that have been translated into 20 languages. My book How to Be Happy (or at Least Less Sad) was called "a wonderful tool for anyone struggling with depression – or even just feeling blah" by Publishers Weekly. My latest book Nobody Knows What They're Doing is available now.


I wrote...

Nobody Knows What They're Doing: The 10 Secrets All Artists Should Know

By Lee Crutchley,

Book cover of Nobody Knows What They're Doing: The 10 Secrets All Artists Should Know

What is my book about?

In a world desperate for a glimpse of authenticity, Nobody Knows What They’re Doing is a breath of fresh air that reveals the truths hiding between the lines of Instagram-friendly aphorisms and behind the words of the most inspirational TED talks. An honest look at the reality of creativity and the joy and difficulty of crafting good (and bad) art, this book belongs in the hands of every exhausted creative, every starry-eyed dreamer, and every person who is trying to make their way in the world—and keep a roof over their head while they do it.

The Mechanical Bride

By Marshall McLuhan,

Book cover of The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man

Largely recognized as McLuhan’s first major work, this book provides a trenchant analysis of 1940’s popular culture in the United States, with particular reference to print-media advertising. To this end, it consists of x chapters, each of which consists of an image culled from newspapers and magazines, accompanied by an insightful—and often ironictext. Dismissed by some as lacking in direction and coherence, the book actually has a tightly woven narrative that sheds considerable light on the gender issues, technology, and power structures of the day. 

The Mechanical Bride

By Marshall McLuhan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mechanical Bride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

William J. Buxton is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies and Senior Fellow, Centre for Sensory Studies, at Concordia University Montreal, Qc, Canada. He is also professeur associé au Département d’information et de communication de l’Université Laval, Québec City, Québec, Canada. He has edited and co-edited five books related to the life and works of the Canadian political economist and media theorist, Harold Adams Innis.


I wrote...

Harold Innis on Peter Pond: Biography, Cultural Memory, and the Continental Fur Trade

By William J. Buxton,

Book cover of Harold Innis on Peter Pond: Biography, Cultural Memory, and the Continental Fur Trade

What is my book about?

This book comprises eight texts by Innis, including his 1930 biography of Pond as well as his writings on the explorer's myriad activities. Situating Innis's writings on Pond in relation to his broader body of biographical work, I interpret what these texts tell us about Innis's intellectual practice, historiography, and the writing of biography. The book explores how Innis's perspectives shifted with changing intellectual and political circumstances and shows that his advocacy of Pond as an unrecognized "father of confederation" challenged conventional views of Canadian nation-building.

Advertising Empire

By David Ciarlo,

Book cover of Advertising Empire: Race and Visual Culture in Imperial Germany

Full with arresting interpretations of visual material, this book shows how modern advertising subtly influenced racist templates. The prose is carefully-wrought and elegant. The dissection of racist images is done with patience and subtlety. And in the process, we learn how,  in the age of high imperialism, advertising reinforced ordinary racism and white supremacy became a default position.

Advertising Empire

By David Ciarlo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Advertising Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the end of the nineteenth century, Germany turned toward colonialism, establishing protectorates in Africa, and toward a mass consumer society, mapping the meaning of commodities through advertising. These developments, distinct in the world of political economy, were intertwined in the world of visual culture.

David Ciarlo offers an innovative visual history of each of these transformations. Tracing commercial imagery across different products and media, Ciarlo shows how and why the "African native" had emerged by 1900 to become a familiar figure in the German landscape, selling everything from soap to shirts to coffee. The racialization of black figures, first…


Who am I?

I am a historian of modern Germany at Vanderbilt University and have followed this field for more than thirty years. After a bit of respite, interest in Imperial Germany is suddenly chic again, as 2021 Germany looks back on the past 150 years of its unification in 1871. These five books, all published since 2000, are major recent contributions to the history of Imperial Germany’s prewar period; they also raise questions about the extent to which this conflict-ridden era represents a distant if imperfect mirror for our own contentious times.


I wrote...

Book cover of Germany: A Nation in Its Time: Before, During, and After Nationalism, 1500-2000

What is my book about?

With a wide array of sources, including oodles of maps and images, this book shows how the idea of the German nation developed and changed over half a millennium. Modern nationalism was a major, if extremely destructive part of the story of the German nation. But it was not the whole story. In Germany, as in other countries, nationalism was always only one possible way of imagining the nation.

Decline and Fall

By Otto Friedrich,

Book cover of Decline and Fall: The struggle for power at a great American magazine: The Saturday Evening Post

Before Life there was the Saturday Evening Post, a roaring success capturing the spirit of Middle America at a time when Middle America defined the cultural ethos of the nation. But by the late 1950s the potent reach of television advertising undermined the general-interest magazine business model, and the Post slipped into an inexorable spiral of decline that its top executives could never quite handle or even understand. There’s plenty of pathos and human drama as they struggle with forces beyond their control. 

Decline and Fall

By Otto Friedrich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Decline and Fall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

From my early teens I aspired to a career in journalism and publishing, manifest in my being editor of my junior high newspaper, my high school paper, and my college paper. After the army and grad school, I pursued my dream, covering Washington, D.C., for the Wall Street Journal for a dozen years and becoming an executive at Congressional Quarterly for 22 years, including 12 years as CEO. The great triumphs and struggles of the news business as it grew and evolved have stirred my consciousness throughout my life, and these five books provide some of the best narrative treatments on the topic that I have encountered throughout a lifetime in the publishing business.


I wrote...

A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent

By Robert W. Merry,

Book cover of A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent

What is my book about?

A Country of Vast Designs is the story of James K. Polk, the 11th U.S. president, and his remarkable one-term presidency, during which he transformed America into a transcontinental nation facing two oceans and poised to dominate global politics in the next century. Polk was in many ways a smaller-than-life figure, but he harbored larger-than-life ambitions. And by dint of his vision, resolve, persistence, wiles, and prodigious work ethic, he accomplished all of the big goals he set for himself, including completing the annexation of Texas and acquiring California, Oregon, and what is now the American Southwest. He also slashed tariff rates (a highly emotional issue in those days) and created what was known as the independent treasury, a forerunner to today’s Federal Reserve. 

A highly controversial president in his own time, he remains controversial in history. But presidential historians consistently rate him a “near great” chief executive in the periodic academic surveys of presidential performance. How did he do all that in the single term he allotted for himself? The answer is grist for what I regard as a compelling human and political story. 

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