15 Advertising Books You Should Read

15 Essential Books on Advertising That Everyone Should Read

Many different people will give you reading lists when you're either studying advertising, or are a professional practicing the craft.

There are hundreds of thousands of books on the subject; a new one is released every day. But there are some that have stood the test of time, and remain required reading. If you're in the communication business, be it advertising, marketing, public relations, design or anything else, these books should have a permanent place in your library.

How to Write an Inspired Creative Brief by Howard Ibach

One of the most important documents in the creative process is the creative brief. It gives the creative department its marching orders, telling them where to start digging for great ideas. Filled with examples of powerful and effective creative briefs, and written in a laid-back but very informative way, this is essential reading for everyone in the communications industry.  

Hey Whipple, Squeeze This by Luke Sullivan

Very few advertising books are as easy and enjoyable to read. Written by a modern master of the advertising craft, it contains a wealth of information that everyone should know. If you're just getting into the business, you'll find a step-by-step guide to every aspect of advertising. If you've been around for decades, you'll not only laugh (and cry) throughout the book, but will still pick up tips and reminders that continue to make you a better creative professional. 

Truth, Lies & Advertising: The Art of Account Planning by Jon Steel

Great account planning ensures that advertising connects with the customers. But you don't need to be an account planner to garner a world of savvy information from this book. Jay Chiat, founder of Chiat\Day, calls it “The best new-business tool ever invented." Memorable, and highly successful, campaigns like “Got Milk?" and "Think Different" started with smart account planning. A book that’s a must-read for everyone in your advertising agency, not just the account department

Ogilvy On Advertising by David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy was an advertising legend. His legacy lives on through the many branches of the Ogilvy network, and his books. Ogilvy On Advertising is considered an advertising bible, filled with indispensible knowledge and candid thoughts from a man who once said "it isn't creative unless it sells." Although decades old now, the principles within the book are as relevant as ever, and you're doing yourself a severe injustice if you have not read it from cover to cover.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin

What if you see a black and white cow after only ever seeing brown cows? It stands out. But what happens when you keep seeing more and more black and white cows? What stands out then? It would take a purple cow. That's the basic premise of Godin's seminal book on transforming your business, and your advertising, into something remarkable. Stand out, be amazing, or blend in and go unnoticed.

From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor by Jerry Della Femina

Possibly the longest title ever written for an advertising book, and yet it doesn't make the information inside any less punchy. For people addicted to the life and work portrayed in Mad Men, this is the book for you. A vivid and no-holds-barred memoir of Madison Avenue advertising in the 60's, it's considered a cult classic, but should be right there on your shelf next to Ogilvy's book.

Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout

We see thousands of advertising messages every day. We probably remember just a handful. Being part of that handful is what this book is all about. How to position your product or service, and therefore, how to market it, is the foundation of a successful advertising and marketing campaign. How do you become an industry leader? How do you take advantage of competitor weaknesses? You'll find out

A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young

The foreword by Bill Bernbach, one of the greatest advertising professionals who ever lived, should be enough to let you know that this is a gem. And although published in 1965 (from a presentation first delivered in 1939) it's timeless advice to help copywriters, art directors, designers and planners jump-start their creative juices. If (or when) you hit a creative wall, this book will help you hammer it down. 

Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step by Edward de Bono

How does creativity work? How do you get results from it? How do you think differently, and more efficiently and effectively? Edward de Bono's classic book explains it all. Anyone who thinks for a living should read this book, and other works by the same author. It's easy to copy great ideas, but to know how to have them, and how to develop them, that's pure gold.   

Caffeine for the Creative Mind by Stefan Mumaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield

The only truly practical workbook in the top 10, this book has enough exercises in it to give your mental muscles an extreme workout every day. Try them all once, then try them again. Find different solutions to the same problems (something advertising is all about) or use the exercises to limber-up before tackling a work-related task. It's also a great way to stay sharp when you have that rare down-time. 

Bill Bernbach's Book by Bob Levenson

How ironic that the man who changed the course of modern advertising and copywriting never wrote a book on how he did it. However, we're lucky to have this excellent account by another great advertising man, Mr. Bob Levenson. A funny, insightful, clever, nostalgic, and brilliant account of a legend, and an advertising genius, this is a must-have book....if you can find it. It's out of print, and changing hands for over $150 a copy.

The Art of Client Service by Robert Solomon & Ian Schafer

It's often said that advertising would be a great business without clients. Well, obviously the ad business needs clients. And this book, now in its third edition, shows agencies how to handle clients in a way that is beneficial to both parties. Having trouble selling in good creative work? Getting irate calls at 2 am? Constantly dealing with shifts in strategy, or micromanaging by everyone from the account executive to the CEO? This is the book you need. 

How to Write Better Copy by Steve Harrison

When someone who has won more Cannes Lions than any other creative director in the world wants to offer you advice, take it. Good, compelling copy is hard to do. And these days, with so many different mediums battling for our attention, the right words are critical in capturing the customer's attention. Steve Harrison is a skilled writer, applying his talents to everything from blog copy to traditional advertising, and he does it with a deft touch. Whether you're a copywriter or art director, a client or a service provider, you need this book. 

One Plus One Equals Three: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking by Dave Trott

Few modern advertising legends speak as bluntly as Dave Trott. He pulls no punches, delivering truths that many people in the industry would rather not hear. In this book, he turns his attention to the creative process. Using humor and storytelling to deliver practical advice you can actually use, this is a book that is easy to ready, and can literally change the way you create advertising campaigns. Do yourself a favor. Buy a copy for yourself, and for everyone in your company. It's that good.  

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

No advertising reading list would be complete without this classic of Chinese literature. Quite simply, advertising and marketing is a kind of warfare, and strategy plays a key role in any campaign. This book, written in 514 B.C., offers the kind of advice that is both timeless, and effective. Divided into 13 chapters that cover the key steps in waging a war, each one can be directly correlated to the stages of an advertising campaign. Don't let its age fool you; the strategies outlined in these pages are still being used today by tech giants and captains of industry.