14 Essential Readings for Smart Advertising Professionals

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This is a guest post by Vishveshwar Jatain who is a content strategist at AdPushup, an ad tech company that helps online publishers optimize the ad revenue generated from their existing ad setup using advanced automated A/B testing and without having any knowledge of coding. You can find him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Advertising is, by its very nature, a vastly multidisciplinary field. In any other profession, one can trudge along – and even be quite successful – by just having enough knowledge of that specific industry; not so with advertising.

Creative people find themselves writing copy for an automaker’s new six-cylinder flagship one day and supervising a creative for an analgesic the next. Add to that the tectonic shift from print to online advertising and all the new roles, opportunities, and challenges brought on by it, and it becomes clear that it’s impossible to thrive in this industry unless you’re constantly on your toes – learning something new every day.

Thankfully, over the years, many creative professionals, ad executives, thought leaders, and think tanks have shared their knowledge for public consumption.

Here’s a selection of such resources that are essential readings for smart advertising professionals in form of blogs and books for anyone in the ad industry who wishes to stay ahead of the curve.


Harvard Business Review

This is not an advertising blog per se; more of a business, strategy, and marketing blog, but it has some really insightful case studies and frequently publishes incisive commentary on everything related to the modern business world. A must read for any professional, not just those in advertising.

The Inspiration Room

This blog is a collaborative effort, providing professionals in the fields of advertising and design with the latest and classic creative inspirations from television, print, ambient and interactive advertising, music videos, photography, and design. It’s a great place to stay updated with the latest in advertising from the people who are actually making them.

Seth Godin

Seth Godin is perhaps the most widely recognized marketing thought leaders of our times. On his blog, Seth regularly powerful thoughts on everything from advertising to psychology to personal growth. The length of the blog post may vary anywhere from two sentences to upwards of 1,000 words but they all share one thing – great insight. Seth has also written more than a few books that make for a great read.


PSFK is a future-forward online resource that provides creative professionals with a forecast into the smarter and better future, acting as a hub for design, advertising, retail, technology, travel and arts & culture news. Their team of researchers, trend-spotters, reporters, and editors help cut through the noise and spotlight the latest innovations that help people live, work, and play better.

Dave Trott

Dave Trott is an influential copywriter, blogger, and author responsible for some of the most memorable advertisements of the last 30 years. On his blog, which has been regularly updated since 2008, he shares his thoughts on practically anything that catches his fancy – one day he will talk about a failed NASA mission and another he’ll talk about the importance of sergeants in the army – all these posts usually have a lesson or an insight at the end for the readers.

Ads of the World

Alright, so not exactly a read in the same sense as other blogs on this list, this is more like an exhaustive catalog of advertisements published across the world. You can filter ads by medium (such as print, TV, online, direct…), country, and industry. It’s a great place when you’re looking for some inspiration and need some fresh ideas and perspectives from published work in the ad world.

The Marketoonist

Marketoonist is the brainchild of Tom Fishburne, a career marketer and cartoonist. Tom started cartooning on the backs of business cases as a student at Harvard Business School. His cartoons have grown by word of mouth to reach 100,000 business readers each week and have been featured by the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes, and the New York Times. His blog contains marketing and branding lessons told through comic strips, which is great if you’re bored by the traditional blogs.


A wonder resource for creative people, 99U is a Webby Award-winning website that shares action-oriented insights from leading researchers and visionary creatives. Run by Behance, the website has articles, videos, and other media on topics such as career management, self-marketing, time management, money, leadership, and more.

Brain Pickings

It’s very hard to define Brain Pickings so I’m going to stick with how its curator, Maria Popova, likes to describe it. She calls it, “An inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness, spanning art, science, design, history, philosophy, and more.” On this blog, you’ll discover the inner workings of the minds of some of the most creative people in the world, across different fields and professions. There are letters, excerpts, illustrations, and various other types of curated media for your information and entertainment.


The Copy Book

Almost every creative person I asked for inputs as part of research for this post pointed me in the direction of this book. In this book, the world’s best copywriters including Neil French, David Abbott, Steve Henry, Jim Durfee, and Richard Foster take turns explaining the most famous advertising campaigns ever produced. The ads discussed themselves may be dated but the wisdom shared is priceless and still holds true.

Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This

The latest (fourth) edition of this widely popular book comes with lessons on how to tackle the new digital medium in addition to the usual radio, TV, print, and outdoor. New chapters include content and examples for how to use social media and other emerging platforms and illustrate what’s changing in the new world of advertising and what isn’t. This book will help you improve your writing skills, be more creative, and move you further along on the road from being a novice to a master of the craft.

My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising

Authored by Claude C. Hopkins, this seminal work is considered to be one of the most impactful guide on advertising which has maintained its relevance even 50 years after it was first published. Hopkins is widely acknowledged to be the father of modern advertising and firmly believed that advertising existed only to sell something and should be measurable and justify the results that it produced. The book contains lessons on salesmanship, psychology, strategy, and measurement.

The One Show, Volume 36

This almanac is that is considered by many to be the benchmark of advertising annuals. In it, you’ll find more than 1,600 four-color images from the finalists and winning entries from One Show and One Show Design contests, insider perspectives from the Gold Pencil winners, a spotlight on the Client of the Year, the college competition winners, and a look into the judging process with a Judge’s Choice section. Categories covered include print, design, integrated branding, television, and radio.

Ogilvy on Advertising

It isn’t possible to compile a list of books on advertising without including the gold standard by David Ogilvy. This is the number one selling book under the category “advertising” on Amazon. It contains candid advice and ideas from the man who founded Ogilvy & Mather, an agency with two clients and a staff of two, which went on to become one of the world’s largest advertising agency. Apart from this book, Ogilvy also authored two other books titled Confessions of an Advertising Man and Blood, Brains & Beer; both essential reads for anyone working in the ad industry.

Although the blogs and books listed above are a great primer for not just advertising professionals but any creative person, the list is by no means exhaustive, only essential.

Especially with regards to books, there are many great ones written on subjects such as psychology, selling, and consumer behavior, authored by people such as Daniel Kahneman, Dan Ariely, Martin Lindstrom, David A. Aaker, Malcolm Gladwell, Laura Ries, Ryan Holiday, and many more, but listing them all would be beyond the scope of this post. My advice would be to start with the ones mentioned on the list and then work your way up towards more specialized fields of knowledge.

What are some of your favorite blogs and books? Is there any specific article that really changed your worldview for good? Let us know in the comments section!

Image credit: Bookshelf from Barn Images

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