14 Best Advertising Books To Read In 2021

Home » Books » Advertising BooksUpdated: October 21, 2021

You found our list of top ​​advertising books.

Advertising books are guides that teach readers how to promote brands, events, and deals. These works cover topics such as copywriting, client accounts, ad strategy, and advertising history. The purpose of these books is to help advertisers sell products more effectively and creatively.

These guides are a type of business book and are similar to books on marketing. The books can also supplement business strategy guides.

This list includes:

  • books on advertising strategy
  • books on advertising psychology
  • online advertising books
  • advertising reference books

Here we go!

List of advertising books

From classics to new releases, here is a list of ultra-useful books on the art of advertising.

1. Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

oglivy on advertising book cover

Ogilvy on Advertising is one of the most essential books on advertising strategy. Ogilvy is a legend in the advertising industry, often hailed as “The Father of Advertising.” In this insider guide, Ogilvy lays out the best approaches for running ad agencies, attracting clients, crafting campaigns that sell, and adjusting methods to fit the subject matter. Although written half a century ago, the wisdom still holds up, because Ogilvy taps into the driving forces and principles at the heart of the practice. The result is timeless strategy that harnesses human psychology for the sake of an ad’s agenda. Ogilvy on Advertising is a must-read or must re-read for any aspiring adman.

Notable Quote: “Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process.”

Read Ogilvy on Advertising.

2. Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy

confessions of an advertising man book cover

Confessions of an Advertising Man is one of the bestselling advertising books of all time. In this book, ad legend David Ogilvy shares reflections and advice on the ad industry. This book serves as a combination memoir and guidebook that reveals the inner workings of advertising. Ogilvy shares stories from his own career in service of teaching readers how to get and keep clients, write persuasive copy, and couple words with powerful images. The majority of these lessons from the golden age of Madison Avenue still ring true today, as the meditations and mantras in these pages speak to the fundamental components of advertising.

Fun Fact: This book was alluded to in Mad Men. 

Notable Quote: “The creative process requires more than reason. Most original thinking isn’t even verbal. It requires ‘a groping experimentation with ideas, governed by intuitive hunches and inspired by the unconscious.’ The majority of business men are incapable of original thinking because they are unable to escape from the tyranny of reason. Their imaginations are blocked.”

Read Confessions of an Advertising Man.

3. The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells by Robert W. Bly

the copywriter's handbook book cover

The Copywriter’s Handbook is an instruction manual for writing strong and persuasive copy. The book covers topics such as composing headlines, fine-tuning landing pages to encourage conversion, and crafting engaging email marketing. The guide lays out a series of tactics for clear and compelling writing. Each chapter details a different medium, such as websites, online ads, public relations material, print ads, and video. The book does a good job of blending traditional advertising formats with digital mediums and prescribes general best practices as well as tailored techniques. The Copywriter’s Handbook is a practical reference for advertisers looking to master the fundamentals of ad writing and make each statement as impactful as possible.

Notable Quote: “Clever advertising can convince people to try a bad product once. But it can’t convince them to buy a product they’ve already tried and didn’t like.”

Read The Copywriter’s Handbook.

4. Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads by Luke Sullivan and Edward Boches

hey whipple squeeze this book cover

Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This is one of the best books on advertising. The guide is a how-to on breaking into the ad industry, with special attention paid to each stage of the creative process. The book traces the history of the modern advertising field from the golden age of the 1950’s, to the modern digital age, and publishers have released new, updated versions to keep up with changing trends. The authors offer advice for amateurs on how to be creative and original, tell captivating stories, and protect their work. The tone is humorous and easy-to-read, yet informative. Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This is a crash course in all-things advertising, and like a personal mentor you can put in your pocket.

Notable Quote: “A brand is the sum total of all the emotions, thoughts, images, history, possibilities, and gossip that exist in the marketplace about a certain company.”

Read Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This.

5. Advertising Concept Book: Think Now, Design Later by Pete Barry

the advertising concept book book cover

Advertising Concept Book: Think Now, Design Later is one of the handiest reference books for advertising. The guide consists of several short paragraphs and numerous illustrations that demonstrate the fundamentals of advertising. The book covers basics such as creating copy and crafting strategy while also mentioning more complex concepts like integrated and interactive advertising. Pete Barry spurs readers to elevate ads into memorable, effective vehicles for spreading awareness and selling products, and teaches readers how to critically evaluate advertisements. Advertising Concept Book: Think Now, Design Later is one of the most useful advertising books for beginners, and can serve as a reminder of unspoken rules for more seasoned professionals.

Notable Quote: “It’s highly unrealistic for even the greatest creative person to expect every one of his or her ideas to be an instant award-winner. The higher the level of expectancy, the more pressure you put on yourself, the more frustrating the creative process becomes, and the poorer the results.”

Read Advertising Concept Book.

6. The Copy Book by D&AD

the copy book book cover

The Copy Book is one of the best advertising reference books. D&AD, which stands for Design & Art Direction, is a nonprofit educational institution that promotes creativity and accessibility in art and design. The organization published this resource on copywriting, which consists of work and reflections from dozens of highly esteemed ad professionals like David Abbott and Barbara Nokes. The pages contain profiles of famous copywriters alongside insights and highlights from their portfolios and serves as both a who’s who and a greatest hits of the copywriting world. The Copy Book is a source of information and inspiration for amateurs just beginning their ad journey as well as experienced professionals hoping to upgrade their ad skills.

Notable Quote: “My tip. Keep your mind and your notebook open to real life.”

Read The Copy Book.

7. The Art of Client Service: The Classic Guide, Updated for Today’s Marketers and Advertisers by Robert Solomon

the art of client service book cover

The Art of Client Service focuses more on the business than the creative side of advertising. The guide explains how to earn business, build long-term relationships, earn client trust, and respond to issues. The author treats clients not as an annoyance, but rather as integral to the industry. The book provides professionals with a practical toolkit to build bonds with clients, win favor and trust, and achieve positive outcomes for customers and the business. The Art of Client Service is a valuable instruction manual for account executives and any client-facing ad role.

Notable Quote: “Everything begins and ends with what clients want, and what they want is relatively straightforward: consistent execution partnered with solid ideas, driven by people who understand and care deeply about their business.”

Read The Art of Client Service.

8. Join or Die: Digital Advertising in the Age of Automation by Patrick Gilbert

join or die book cover

Join or Die is one of the best online advertising books. The text centers around paid digital ad platforms such as Google Ads and Facebook Ads and aims to help advertisers understand how these programs work so as to better optimize them. The book outlines strategies and prescribes PPC best practices to help agencies make good on promises to clients and achieve more robust ROI. Join or Die explains automation and the nature of algorithms in layman’s terms and presents case studies to show how to use AI theories in practice.

Notable Quote: “It’s not about who has the best data anymore. It’s about how you use that data.”

Read Join or Die.

9. Scientific Advertising by Claude C Hopkins

scientific advertising book cover

Scientific Advertising turns one-hundred soon, however the lessons in these pages are still as pertinent today as in the 1920’s. In this classic, Claude C Hopkins presents advertising as a process that has measurable and predictable outcomes. The book explores human psychology and the rules of the ad world and prescribes techniques to achieve optimal results. Chapters cover concepts such as samples, negative advertising, specificity, and testing campaigns. Scientific Advertising remains one of the all-time best books on advertising and sales, and is a must-read for anyone in the industry.

Notable Quote: “The best ads ask no one to buy. That is useless. Often they do not quote a price. They do not say that dealers handle the product. The ads are based entirely on service. They offer wanted information.”

Read Scientific Advertising.

10. The Boron Letters by Gary C. Halbert and Bond Halbert

the boron letters book cover

The Boron Letters is a published collection of correspondence by prominent copywriter Gary C. Halbert. Halbert set out to pass the wisdom gained throughout his professional life to his son through a series of letters, and Bond Halpert, in turn, decided to share those nuggets of knowledge with the world. The letters are full of practical tips on how to craft good copy and advertise effectively. The advice has the love and guidance of a father coupled with the invaluable insight of an expert. The letters date back a couple of decades, yet give still-relevant hints about the fundamentals of advertising as well as life in general.

Notable Quote: “Find A Market First… And Then Concentrate On A Product!”

Read The Boron Letters.

11. Truth, Lies, and Advertising: The Art of Account Planning by Jon Steel

truth lies & advertising book cover

Truth, Lies, and Advertising provides an overview of account planning, the practice of creating ads that connect with consumers. The book covers concepts such as research, creative briefs, and strategy to share tips on how to make ads that resonate with potential customers. The book gives insight into human nature and urges ad professionals to put the audience at the center of the creative process, while also collaborating with other areas of the agency. Chapters also contain example campaigns that model effective account planning in action. Truth, Lies, and Advertising lays out the basics of account planning in simple terms and actionable steps.

Notable Quote: “The most important lessons of advertising are perhaps to be found all around us in our everyday lives and relationships, and the factors that lead to successful communication in that broader, human context are exactly the same as those that work in advertising across all types of media.”

Read Truth, Lies, and Advertising.

12. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout

positioning book cover

Positioning is a masterclass in earning a spot in consumer’s consciousness. The book shows how to stand out in the increasingly cutthroat battle for audience attention and position a product, service, or organization as the best in the minds of consumers. The central idea is that the public mentally ranks brands based on impressions gleaned from advertisements. The authors lay out ways to earn that coveted top spot, and by extension, dominate a market. The text provides instructions on every step from picking the right battle to picking the right name, and provides plenty of case studies and examples to show the nuances of the art.

Notable Quote: “The basic approach of positioning is not to create something new and different, but to manipulate what’s already up there in the mind, to retie the connections that already exist.”

Read Positioning.

13. Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom

buyology book cover

Buyology is one of the best books on advertising psychology. The book shares results from a multiyear neuromarketing study that monitored thousands of volunteers viewing ads. The book covers subjects such as subliminal messaging, product placement, and rituals and superstition. Analyzing the data, Martin Lindstrom identifies what appeals to audiences, and what merely catches attention vs actually selling products. The insights challenge long-held beliefs about the advertising industry, such as the widely-repeated supposed wisdom of “sex sells.” Buyology is the ultimate exploration of the factors that actually drive sales, and the ways in which advertisers can harness those elements to boost bottom lines.

Notable Quote: “When we brand things, our brains perceive them as more special and valuable than they actually are.”

Read Buyology.

14. Reality in Advertising by Rosser Reeves

reality in advertising book cover

Reality in Advertising provides a comprehensive overview of the advertising industry. The book dispels myths, gives a glimpse into inner workings of the industry, and prescribes tactics for a more meaningful and impactful career in ads. Rosser Reeves emphasizes the difference between appearances and surface metrics and true performance, and urges readers to dig deep and strive to sell. The book is full of anecdotes and practical advice that provide a more detailed and realistic portrait of the world of advertising and the role of advertisers. Reality in Advertising is one of the most useful books on advertising for aspiring ad professionals.

Notable Quote: “A company with a strong message may get its story into the heads of only a few people, and become rich. Conversely, a company with a bad message may get its story into all the heads, and become bankrupt.”

Read Reality in Advertising.

Final Thoughts

From its inception, advertising has tapped into primal needs and desires. This obsession with human instinct is the reason that many of the bestselling guides from the golden ages of American advertising remain some of the best books on advertising even today. Yet, with the advent of digital advertising and the growing role of technology in modern culture and marketing, it is useful to read newer releases as well. Whatever the publication date, these books can help professionals masker skills and strategies needed to resonate with audiences and sell products.

Next, check out this list of growth hacking books and this roundup of social media marketing books.

FAQ: Advertising books

Here are answers to common questions about books on advertising.

What are advertising books?

Advertising books are guides to creating campaigns that generate sales. Many of these books have been penned by legendary admen and executives, and give solid insight into the advertising world. These works cover topics such as tips for attracting and catering to clients, the inner workings of ad agencies, the fundamentals of good copy, the creation of ads in different mediums, as well as the psychology behind what attracts consumer attention and makes a message resonate.

What are some good advertising books for beginners?

Some good advertising books for beginners include Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy, The Copy Book by D&AD, Advertising Concept Book: Think Now, Design Later by Pete Barry, and Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This by Luke Sullivan and Edward Boches.

How are marketing books different from advertising books?

The difference between marketing and advertising books is that marketing deals with a much broader scope of promotion. Typically, marketers work on building a brand and look at the long-term while advertising tends to be more self-contained and focused on immediate sales.

Marketing books tend to be more about spreading awareness and playing the long game while advertising books center around crafting campaigns, grabbing and keeping audience attention, and generating sales.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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